Published on July 29th, 2013 | by SMUMN0
Matt Nowakowski leads graduate programs with vision and humor
If MBA program director and career businessman Matt Nowakowski D’10 were to completely redesign his career, he’s fancied becoming an epidemiologist.
The vocation differences, he explained, really aren’t really as radical as they seem. “There’s the spread and statistics behind public diseases,” he said. “It’s a very diagnostic field.”
But, as the second half of his title changed this January from interim dean to dean of the Graduate School of Business and Technology for the Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs, Dr. Nowakowski will happily stick to making armchair diagnoses while watching “House.” “I love that show,” he said. “I always try to think about how I can beat ’em.”
Dr. Nowakowski made the switch from international business to education after his life priorities changed. Through his previous job, he’d lived in Japan, Sweden and Saudi Arabia, as well as traveled extensively. But after having a daughter, he decided to get off the road and continue his education.
“I went out searching for Ed.D. programs and that’s how I wandered into Saint Mary’s at 2500 Park Avenue,” he said.
In 2007, while completing his advanced degree from the Twin Cities campus, he accepted a position at Saint Mary’s as director of the MBA. Beginning in 2012, he also began serving as interim dean of SMU’s Graduate School of Business and Technology before becoming dean in January 2013.
As dean, Dr. Nowakowski is responsible for a large variety of master’s, certificate and undergraduate completion programs, as well as the new Doctor of Business Administration in the Twin Cities area, Rochester and Winona. He also teaches in the Ed.D. program and serves on dissertation committees.
“I really found a home here,” he said. “The mission here is very important.”
“We’re having an impact on making an education accessible to students. And this is a place where the teaching matters, which fits with Saint John Baptist de La Salle’s vision. For someone who had a corporate life and wanted to get into higher education, it’s been a wonderful experience.”
Dr. Nowakowski said the “Saint Mary’s difference,” particularly in the SGPP, is multifold.
“The students have a great deal of diversity in the classrooms,” he said. “When I read the names at commencement, it’s not uncommon for our students to come from five or eight different countries.
“Faculty here are practitioners as well as scholars. They’re working at 3M, Cargill, running private law practices and come here to teach in the evenings because they love students and love teaching. I can say that for all the business programs. We have faculty who really want to teach and students who are working adults who are hungry for that education.
“And, we are more collaborative than competitive, which fits within the mission of the school.”
Dr. Nowakowski explained the unique opportunities SGPP students have had to travel abroad as part of their capstone experiences. M.A. in Public Safety Administration students traveled to Mexico last year and London this year, where they worked with London police and shared best practices. The MBA program, since his arrival, has traveled to China, Sweden, Finland, Costa Rica, Spain and Colombia. This past year, they traveled to Nairobi, where they were able to visit the Maryknoll Institute of African Studies, SMU’s affiliate program.
“They spent one day in Maryknoll but were in the country 10 days, and worked with a program that runs a school for orphans and disadvantaged youth in Kenya. I went to their final presentation, and one student said, ‘When they first announced this capstone, I was really disappointed, I was hoping to work for a Fortune 500 company.’ But she went on to explain that the experience, particularly working with the children of Kenya, turned out to be life-changing.”
Dr. Nowakowski sat back in his chair and smiled. “She got it,” he said. “She got what we were going for.”
Nowakowski in a nutshell
- What is your favorite word? Canoe
- What is your least favorite word? Late
- What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Wilderness places
- What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Intolerance
- What sound or noise do you love? My daughter’s laughter
- What sound or noise do you hate? Alarm clocks
- What profession would you not like to do? Window washer or sherpa. “Neither one is going to happen for Matt,” he said. “No heights. I like to be close to the ground.”
- What would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? You’re in!
- Family? He has a daughter who is 11 and in the fifth grade and he has been happily married for 22 years. A professed dog person, Nowakowski has an Australian shepherd. “She’s smart and naughty and I like her that way,” he joked.