Novak in the News

Novak in the News

Novak: No longer a scrambler ride — Embracing our roles as women | Mitchell Republic – March 25, 2021

Living out a vocation of motherhood is not incompatible with living out our calling to serve as a leader in the workplace. Our workplace is a part of our community.

I enjoy amusement park rides. Each year, my youngest children beg and plead with me to join them on the midway rides during Corn Palace week. I hop on the scrambler with my two youngest boys who persuade me to sit on the side that gets “squished.” We spin around in various directions, getting pulled this way and that way. I experience the “scrambler squeeze” and enjoy the laughter for my children.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, recent reports about women attempting to balance their personal and professional lives have me reflecting on the “scrambler squeeze.” During the past decade, a parade of successful women have come forward with “recipes” for women in leadership.

Sheryl Sandberg encouraged us to “lean in” to professional opportunities. Former state department leader Anne-Marie Slaughter told us “we can’t have it all.” Others have suggested that we “recline,” and still others have warned, ominously, of the dangers of leaving the workforce to stay home with children. The advice feels akin to the sensation of the scrambler ride, with one opinion pushing women in one direction and the next opinion yanking them abruptly in another. This dynamic leads, understandably, to feelings of anxiety and frustration among many women, and can fuel a sense of inadequacy regarding the challenge of every truly living up to these ever changing and shifting pieces of advice. Allow me to offer a different perspective.

Women are good. We have good to give. We are all different. We have different gifts and different callings. We must resist the temptation to measure ourselves against terms like “professional” and “domestic,” or some ideal combination of the two. We must resist the temptation to measure ourselves against others. We must simply seek to be the best version of what we have been called to be. This may mean very different things from day to day and even hour to hour. We were not created to be perfect. We were created to be “present.” Being “present” allows us to manifest our gifts in different ways and in different contexts. When Senator Mike Braun described Amy Coney Barrett as a “Legal titan who drives a minivan,” he was, on one hand, simply seeking to document Coney Barrett’s adherence to traditional values. On the other hand, however, he was marveling publicly at the near incomprehensibility of these two roles being simultaneously and successfully executed by the same woman. These sorts of comments reinforce the “scramble ride” dynamic.

Women were not created to be alone. We are part of a community, a community that complements our strengths and compensates for our weaknesses, but toward where we must be open if we are to receive its support.

Living out a vocation of motherhood is not incompatible with living out our calling to serve as a leader in the workplace. Our workplace is a part of our community. We must support one another in both our homes and our workplaces by creating policies and opportunities that enable one another to embrace the multiple roles they are asked to play at varying points in their lives. As a leader in an organization that employs many women and men, I recognize the importance of ensuring that our staff can take time to attend a child’s school play or care for an aging relative. I also recognize that performance in our organization needs to routinely meet or exceed expectations. I have found that supporting flexibility and honoring the myriad roles played by women and men yields higher rates of job satisfaction, employee retention and overall productively.

Women will not do everything right, and that should not be the standard to which we are held. For women, it is not, ultimately, about striking a perfect, mythical balance between the professional and domestic spheres. It is about being present wherever you are and bringing your gifts to bear in that space. Shirley Chisolm, the first African American woman elected to Congress said, “If they don’t offer you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Be present. Bring your gifts. Nurture yourself and share your goodness. Sometimes it will make sense to take the promotion. Sometimes it will make sense to be in the bleachers cheering for your child. Sometimes it will make sense to do both on the same day. Wherever you are, show up. Eventually no one will care whether you got there in a minivan or, or in my case, a 12 passenger one.

Novak: No longer a scrambler ride — Embracing our roles as women | Mitchell Republic – March 25, 2021
Source: Mitchell Republic

Racism: The Work of Our Lifetimes – Jan. 18, 2021

Dr. Amy Novak, President, Dakota Wesleyan University

As a sixth-grade student at Holy Family Catholic School, I was the beneficiary of the joy-filled, energizing teaching of Sr. Sabina Joyce. Sr. Sabina was legendary. She had spent time as a Catholic sister in Washington DC, working diligently on issues of racial justice prior to me even being born. She had served as an advocate for the poor, the marginalized, young people, and people of color.

Sr. Sabina regularly asked challenging and thought-provoking questions to start our classroom discussions. What is justice? Who controls justice? What is right? These Socratic questions enlivened our discussions, gently encouraging us to think on our own, discern our own values, and establish our own moral compass. This was not formulaic teaching based on a set of predesigned questions with correct answers. This was teaching that sought to form the mind, hone reason, and force students to wrestle with the complexities of life. Sr. Sabina’s class stirred my soul and lit the fire that continues to motivate my work in higher education and my desire for my university to offer thought leadership and active community engagement on issues of race, poverty, education, or rurality.

Sr. Sabina worked tirelessly to foster an awareness of issues that extended well beyond our classroom, our school, and our community. I recall many discussions about racial justice. During one class meeting, she read Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech to us with a cadence infused with passion, a cadence that stirred my early commitment to social justice work. After she completed her recitation, I recall asking her, “When will we achieve racial equality?” Delicately, but deliberately, she leaned over my desk, placed her calloused hands on my shoulders, stared straight into my eyes and said, “Amy, this work, this incredibly important work, is the work of a lifetime.”

The work of a lifetime. The phrase itself threatens to overwhelm us because it quickly overflows most of the categories that we use to organize work. It’s not the work of a week, or of a semester, or of a year, or even of a decade. And, of course, it more than hints at the fact that it is work that will never be completed, which in our society, can beg the question: why bother engaging in it then anyway? If racism is simply the bane of humanity, then why bother to fight it?

I would, however, like to suggest that such work, may indeed, represent the work of our lifetimes. It is work that should challenge us daily to cultivate a greater degree of self-awareness, to engage in critical dialogues, and to act in ways that enable us to work toward greater equality. Ijeoma Oluo’s book, "So You Want to Talk About Race," argues that “The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be anti-racist. Antiracism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself.”

Confronting racism within ourselves (and the uncomfortable truth is that some of it exists in all of us) is difficult. But we must be willing to face our discomfort, whether that takes the form of sadness, confusion, anguish, or outrage, and we must seek to translate that discomfort into positive and sustained action. Our voice matters, our vote matters, our courage to confront uncomfortable comments we hear, or unjust actions we witness, matters.

As a white person in our community, I am keenly aware that my experience is not the same as the experience of my black children, our black students, or our black faculty and staff members. For many of these persons, learned distrust of whites and the criminal justice system has left them skeptical and, indeed, sometimes cynical. Well-intentioned whites may genuinely want to address the challenges of race in America by hosting a lecture, sponsoring a picnic, or organizing a panel discussion. While these activities may represent starting points, we do not resolve something as complex as race in an evening. Moreover, well-intentioned whites can be poorly equipped to fully appreciate the fear and concern that may accompany the courage required of a person of color to share their personal story, their narrative of racist experiences, particularly in front of a largely white audience. A person of color may ask, “Will I be believed? Will my experience be trivialized? Do I risk retribution if I dare to question the system?”

The injustices experienced by people of color in our country stretch back generations. Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and others have testified regularly and fervently about police brutality and systemic racism. Today, decades later, their testament continues, unfortunately, to carry extraordinary relevance.

If, every day, we attempt to learn one more thing about our neighbor, our friend, our colleague whose experience might be different than our own, then we begin, ever so slowly, to build the trust that needs to be built to honestly confront the challenges of systemic racism.

We cannot allow the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, or Breonna Taylor add up to little more than names on a list of black people whose experience will be unlike our own. We cannot stand by and let the incarceration rates of black persons, the blatant racial comments toward black leaders, or the unfair biases that keep blacks out of leadership roles or the C-suite continue to be acceptable.

Instead, we must commit to a lifetime of work to recognize our own racial biases and begin to advocate and support an anti-racist ethos that will begin to radically transform our world. This, friends, is important work. Indeed, it must be the work of our lifetimes.

Roidt: The tranquilizing drug of gradualism | Mitchell Republic – Jan. 18, 2021

As we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it may be instructive to turn to Dr. King for guidance on the ever-present temptation to “go slow.”

This is a difficult moment in U.S. history. The pandemic, in addition to wreaking considerable death and economic suffering, has also revealed deep, stubborn, and persistent inequalities in American society. The majority of wealthier, more educated, and disproportionately white professionals have enjoyed the privilege of working from home and, generally speaking, of living in more sparsely populated residential neighborhoods thereby reducing their, and their families’, exposure to COVID-19. Conversely, low-wage workers labor disproportionately in frontline jobs in the public sphere (such as in nursing homes and grocery stores), are comprised disproportionately of women and people of color, have been hardest hit by job cuts, are less likely to have health insurance, and often live in more densely populated residential areas. Unsurprisingly, this has translated into significantly higher COVID-19 mortality rates for people of color.

This summer—following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers—the nation witnessed widespread protests over systemic racism within the criminal justice system and other institutions. This past week the nation experienced the tragic assault on the U.S. Capitol Building in an effort to thwart the results of the election. In challenging times such as these, when the entire world seems to be continually unmoored, it is a basic human impulse to seek some consistency, some firm footing. Despite the daunting economic and social crises facing the nation, crises calling out for decisive action, it is tempting to “go slow.”

As we observe Martin Luther King Day, it may be instructive to turn to Dr. King for guidance on the ever-present temptation to “go slow.” Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” was delivered on August 28, 1963, after a long summer of racial unrest across the U.S., a summer that witnessed the assassination of Medgar Evers and race-related violence in multiple American cities. King’s speech is justifiably famous for his improvised, “I have a dream” conclusion. At an earlier point in the speech however, King addresses the urgency of the historical moment, noting that, “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”

Many, including the Kennedy administration, had argued against the gathering in Washington D.C., calling on civil rights leaders to “go slow,” warning that continued protests might only serve to alienate mainstream Americans from the civil rights cause—an illustration of precisely what King meant by the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” Gradualism is seductive, it allows us to claim the mantle of virtue without risking too much. Yes, we want things to change, but let’s not rock the boat too much trying to get there. No need to upset people unnecessarily.

In contemporary parlance, we might equate gradualism with virtue signaling. With virtue signaling, the individual cares more about the appearance of virtue rather than whether justice is actually served. Donate to the right cause. Read the right book. Put the woke bumper sticker on your car. Say the politically enlightened thing. Gradualism banks on the simplistic proposition that, if we aggregate good and virtuous intentions, we wind up with a virtuous outcome. King warns us against precisely this, because the tranquilizing effect of gradualism stems from feeling good about ourselves. When we measure our success by whether we feel good about ourselves, we focus on the wrong thing and risk tranquilizing ourselves with self-satisfaction, thereby losing sight of the ultimate cause of justice.

In this moment of national crises, calls for gradualism abound. The protests against racism and police brutality are too confrontational. Some people are going to be turned off. Economic relief packages to those without jobs and facing eviction shouldn’t be too generous. People will not have any incentive to return to work.

If we are to heed this part of King’s message today, we should be prepared to critically interrogate calls for gradualism, however well-intended they may be. For, in King’s thinking, all such calls carry a potentially tranquilizing effect. They offer the quick comfort of “being reasonable,” “being on the right side,” or simply feeling good about ourselves, but they carry the danger of obscuring the larger cause of justice. Heeding King’s call also challenges us to imagine bolder alternatives to gradualism, irrespective of the boats that such alternatives may rock.


Roidt: The tranquilizing drug of gradualism | Mitchell Republic – Jan. 18, 2021
Source: Mitchell Republic

Novak: Seeing through your eyes | Mitchell Republic – Jan. 6, 2021

Nearly twenty years ago while living with my family in Ottawa, Canada, I had the opportunity to work with new immigrants to that nation from around the world. Many had been broken by war and scarred by poverty and violence. Many had lost children and other family members; many had suffered personal injuries and abuse. Others had witnessed their homes and villages burned. These stories helped to explain their decisions to flee their countries, but they regularly shook me to my core. Our church community was actively involved in welcoming these new immigrants, securing them housing, offering basic language instruction, introducing the medical system, and a host of other necessary issues.

One story from this experience inspires my work as we enter 2021.

A young father named Amir sat across a table from me sharing his hopes and dreams for his family. War had been a constant in Amir’s life. I asked if he was angry or filled with hatred toward those who burned his village, abused his daughters, and forced him to flee. “No,” he said. “I no longer have the energy to be angry. But, if I can give my children one gift, I want them to learn to see through someone else’s eyes.”

As we begin a new year, we need to recognize that no president or Congressional delegation can truly solve our most vexing problems. Regardless of the challenge, it will take a community, one comprised of individuals who are willing to undertake the challenging work of seeing the world through other’s eyes.

If we think that a vaccine is the panacea, the cure-all to a global pandemic, we close our eyes. If we think that stimulus check will cover the cost of loneliness, we close our eyes. If we think flipping the calendar page will result in some magical transformation, we close our eyes. More than ever, in 2021 we need a community of awareness.

Community begins with me and my willingness to see beyond my own issues and challenges. So yes, I’ve got my own problems, but when I am called to community awareness, I have to muster the courage to ask, “How might I learn to understand the wounds, the loss, the struggles facing my family member, my neighbor, my co-worker, or the stranger.” The path to this understanding is neither simple nor easy. It demands listening, thoughtful questioning, a willingness to question my own assumptions and beliefs, and a willingness to learn.

In the past year we have regularly heard the phrase “common good” in everyday speech, from wearing masks to stem to spread of COVID-19 to the need for police reform. We have refrained from attending events that we find great joy in attending. We have stayed away from loved ones because others may be put at risk. Whatever our individual motivations, these actions have benefited the common good.

Amir’s wish for his children calls us to a deeper understanding of the common good however, one that involves not only the welfare of our fellow citizens but that challenges us to see the world through their eyes. It invites us to move beyond a focus on “me” and toward a focus on “we.” It challenges us to listen openly to new perspectives, ones we might not otherwise have considered. It challenges us examine our own our own beliefs. It challenges us to assess our investment in those things that may not benefit the wounded, the marginalized, those suffering losses and, indeed, may in fact, contribute to their marginalization. It challenges us to be the healing words, the healing touch, the healing ear, the healing eyes to a wounded world.

My hope for the coming year is that our understanding of the common good can grow stronger and deeper, that we can find the courage to take the difficult steps of learning to see the world through the eyes of others very different from us. For it is only when we do this that we will truly be prepared to address the vexing challenges that confront us both nationally and locally. May we begin 2021 with a desire to become Amir’s gift to his children: to build our community by first trying to see through someone else’s eyes.


Novak: Seeing through your eyes | Mitchell Republic – Jan. 6, 2021
Source: Mitchell Republic

Novak: The role of the university amid controversy | Mitchell Republic — Sept. 4, 2020

One might have hoped that the return of college athletics — particularly when so many conferences have cancelled their fall seasons — would serve as a welcome balm for communities exhausted by the pandemic, widespread economic challenges, and a summer of protest that has unfolded across the nation. But, as we all know, we live in unprecedented times.

As the start of the fall seasons in football, soccer, volleyball, and cross country have inched closer, the inquiries, phone calls, and emails have increased. Many of these inquiries pose the same question, “Are you going to let your student athletes kneel during the national anthem?” Often these communications are not merely inquiries; they are also statements communicating a person’s intent to not support the university should Dakota Wesleyan student athletes “be allowed” to kneel during the national anthem.

These communications fill me with sadness, not because of the support that the university may forgo in this regard, but because the individuals threatening to withdraw their support fundamentally misunderstand the central purpose of the university. Dakota Wesleyan student-athletes are, after all, student-athletes. An athletic scholarship may help make their education more accessible financially, but the ultimate goal is for them to become engaged citizens and successful professionals, not professional athletes.

The situation has called to mind arguments that Cardinal John Henry Newman makes in his classic text The Idea of a University. Newman argued famously, and against many of his contemporaries, that the pursuit of knowledge represented an end in itself. He wrote that a university education “gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them and a force in urging them.” Critically however, Newman fully recognized that the journey to this point was rarely straight and was almost always messy.

Some of the angry messages I have received have come from those who have served in the military. They claim that kneeling shows disrespect for “the very freedom they signed up to defend.”

As a military spouse, I deeply value the sacrifice made by our military, but I also recognize that peaceful protest, far from showing disrespect for freedom, represents a fundamental expression of that very freedom. Anyone who has taken an oath in the military knows that the servicemember swears to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

The Constitution allows for peaceful protest. The Constitution safeguards the right of Americans to form opinions and to express them in a civil manner. The Constitution does not pertain only to some Americans, members of a particular party, a particular faith, or a particular group. It pertains to “We the People.” The story of America is an ever-evolving more perfect union that must allow for a multiplicity of voices, or else it betrays the very principles upon which the nation stands.

It’s a messy business, allowing for multiple voices and beliefs. It’s a complicated process to discern what one embraces and what one rejects. As citizens, we can’t be content to hide in a corner and hope that all this noise, all this tension, all the political polarization of the moment will somehow just blow away, and someone else will figure it out, and tell me what to think, and tell me what to do.

The university does not shrink from the margins, the gray, the complexities, the conflicts over values and virtues, the multiplicity of faiths and opinions. We are not in the business of making widgets. We are not in the business of creating a unified body of believers. The university engages the development of human beings, in all their beautiful complexity.

The question of whether or not a student-athlete should kneel during the national anthem is precisely the sort of question that a university should be preparing its students to answer, thoughtfully, and for themselves. As the fall sport season commences in many places across the nation, there will be white athletes who kneel. There will be black athletes who remain standing. These decisions are personal decisions and the intent of these decisions is neither to disrespect one’s teammates nor the members of the local community. All student athletes, whether kneeling or standing are seeking to discern and articulate their civic role and their civic voice, during exceedingly challenging times, in the unfolding story of America.

The university is a place where students seek, in part, to understand their role as citizens, to seek to discern their relationship to the greater good, and to cultivate the courage, purpose, and principles to guide them as they assume roles in the larger community. This is a part of what’s best about America. I will support all our students seeking to find their civic roles and voices, whether they kneel or stand.


Novak: The role of the university amid controversy | Mitchell Republic — Sept. 4,2020
Source: Mitchell Republic

Letter: The right to vote, the right to lead | Mitchell Republic — Aug. 15, 2020

The right to vote forms the foundation of meaningful participation and leadership. Most of the South Dakota colleges and universities that women lead today were established decades before women had the right to vote in the United States. Thankfully, these institutions were open to women seeking college degrees well before ratification of the 19th Amendment. It took nearly 70 years to achieve women’s suffrage — and it took another 70 years from that pivotal moment in history for a woman to hold the top leadership position in any of the colleges and universities founded in the 1860s and 1880s. Four of us are “first” female presidents within the last decade.

Grateful. There are many who helped pave the path for women to become college and university presidents and other leaders throughout the public and private sector. We celebrate first and foremost our forebears who supported ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Their sense of justice and self-worth along with their courage, hard work and resilience, resulted in the largest expansion of voting rights in our country’s history. Enfranchisement started the long road to changing attitudes about women as full citizens in our democracy who are capable and valued contributors to self-determination.

We also are grateful to female colleagues on our campuses — those who served before us and those with whom we serve today — who were among the “firsts” to lead academic departments, operational functions, governing boards and alumni associations. Their talents and tenacity paved the path further by demonstrating that women are equally competent and similarly gifted to lead as we partner effectively to develop strategies, manage budgets, recruit and retain talent, make hard decisions, and articulate visions for the future.

Purposeful. When each of us assumed leadership roles, we were well aware of the trends and challenges in higher education that require more innovation, more partnerships, strategic investments and creative solutions. We also knew that as women presidents, we would have opportunities within our spheres of influence to address lingering inequities and to empower more women within our organizations and within our broader communities. Throughout the past decade, we’ve navigated and managed enormous amounts of change to strengthen our colleges and universities, serve more students, and fulfill our institutional missions, all while being intentional and deliberate in fostering the growth and development of more women leaders to overcome barriers that clearly still remain.

The opportunity to lead a college, university, or other organization during good times is exhilarating and deeply fulfilling. The right to lead during times of crisis is both exhausting and immensely rewarding. In the year 2020, we have been faced with public health, economic and social crises that have affected our campus communities in ways we never could have imagined. But women’s struggle for the right to vote also happened amid crises — World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic. It’s a good reminder of what turbulent times require of all of us. History is such a good teacher, and provides us critical context. We will weather the storms and achieve aspirational goals with focus, determination, compassion, and by supporting each other.

Hopeful. We recognize that the socialization of young women and men is based in part on what they experience and observe in childhood and young adulthood. This socialization changes with each generation, and we know that the dreams and aspirations of young women today are limitless based on the ongoing progress of the past 100 years. Many of our women alumni continue to break glass ceilings and become female “firsts” in their chosen professions. We celebrate them. We celebrate history while confronting the challenges of the present and looking ahead to the future because our campuses are communities in which young people are prepared to be active and engaged citizens, to contribute in meaningful ways to their workplaces and communities, and to lead. We are inspired by the level of public-mindedness of Generation Z.

In honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment, we are promoting the celebratory activities of the Her Vote, Her Voice campaign, including the “Look Up to Her” programming and the lighting of Mt. Rushmore. We also are planning educational activities on our campuses for Constitution Day, September 17, to reflect on the history of suffrage and voting rights in America and to highlight the importance of active participation in our democratic system of government.

Dr. Ann Bolman, Western Dakota Tech

Sheila Gestring, University of South Dakota

Dr. José-Marie Griffiths, Dakota State University

Dr. Paula Langteau, Presentation College

Dr. Laurie Nichols, Black Hills State University

Dr. Amy Novak, Dakota Wesleyan University

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Augustana University


Letter: The right to vote, the right to lead | Mitchell Republic — Aug. 15, 2020
Source: Mitchell Republic

Novak: Entering Our Discomfort Zone | The Daily Republic — June 3, 2020

The following was an editorial by President Amy Novak that was included in the June 2 edition of the Mitchell Republic.

Over the weekend, I, a white-middle-age woman, spent considerable time reflecting on the events surrounding the tragic death of the 46-year-old black man from Minneapolis, George Floyd. In many conversations, my black young adult children have shared with me their perspective. People stopped me in the grocery store wanting to know my opinion. Some community members remarked, “We just need to move on.”

Talking about race in a small, predominantly white community is difficult. Unsure of what to say, we feel awkward. Many of us may feel disconnected from racism because we don’t experience it. It is not a stretch to state that most people in our community may not know any black people, either as a casual acquaintance or a close friend. White Americans often suggest we are “color blind.” We mean that we “treat people equally”; we “don’t see color.” An often well-intentioned notion, we may discover that we define “color” by our “white” terms. Unfortunately, claiming “color blindness” may shield us from confronting our own fears that lead to bias and discrimination.

As a white woman, even as a white parent of black children, I will always be incapable of fully understanding the experience of being black. I do appreciate that looking through a black person’s lens, a “color blind” world does not exist, because for the most part, a person of color lives in a world where opportunities many of us take for granted fall outside a color spectrum they can see or experience. But far more egregious than “opportunity” is the deprivation of the basic human need to feel safe, secure.

My husband says when he had “The Talk” with our black son, it was a necessary, but sad moment. “The Talk” is when, usually a black parent, has to tell his or her child that he can’t run through a parking lot after dark, or wear a hoodie when the sun goes down, and to remember to keep his hands on the steering wheel if he gets pulled over for speeding and never make any quick moves to get the proof of car insurance. The “Talk” explains that most police officers have the highest sense of integrity, and these officers take their oath with honor and sincerity. “But, please son realize that you will not be seen by some law enforcement the same way as your white friends.” When a white father tells his black son this, it cuts both of them. I also know that there are noble, well-intentioned police officers who are angered by what happened, and who are hurt by the misrepresentation of their profession.

Solidarity is more than cheering from the sidelines or posting a social media message of support (which I did). Solidarity is also not violence, or arson, or looting. Instead, solidarity requires me to stand with the marginalized. Priest Greg Boyle calls this “radical kinship." Radical kinship starts with recognizing that I am different from you. I will never be able to experience life as a person of color. I must start by telling my black children, “I can’t tell you what it is like to be black in America. But I know this, I love you, and I will stand with you. And, my hope for you is that you will always have the courage to love those different from you.”

Suggesting that we just “move on” will not help solve the challenges that lie before us. If we truly want to work to solve these problems, we need to be willing to step outside of our comfort zones, and that may require stepping deep inside of ourselves, to even the shadowed parts of our souls.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, then we need to try to answer this question: “Why do I want basic human rights of legal justice, security, education, employment, shelter, and social contribution for people who are not like my race, my gender, my citizenship, my sexual-orientation, my mental and physical health, my age, my language, my religious beliefs, or my political values?” If I answer, “I don’t want everyone to have the same basic human dignities,” then I must begin to wrestle with myself for the good of others, because I am part of the problem, not the solution. We are called to become the change we want to see in the world.

Let us walk alongside each other together toward human dignity for all, not just in a sign of protest, but transformatively, in a commitment to a more cooperative, perfect union.


Novak: Entering Our Discomfort Zone | The Daily Republic — June 3, 2020
Source: The Daily Republic

Novak: Danger and opportunity during crisis | The Daily Republic — April 14, 2020

Early in my career, one of my mentors shared the Chinese hanzi, or characters, for the word “crisis.” In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters. One means danger, and the other that means opportunity. This dual meaning of the word in Chinese has offered a lens through which I have begun to view the global COVID-19 pandemic, both personally, and with respect to my leadership role at Dakota Wesleyan University.

News coverage of the COVID-19 virus, from traditional broadcasts to social media, offers an incessant drumbeat of risk and danger. Schools have transitioned to e-learning. Many businesses are shuttering. Citizens across the country are in their third or fourth week of state-mandated restrictions on personal movement. Leaders from medicine, research, business, industry, and government offer guidance in hope of slowing the rate of infection, of flattening the curve. All share the same goal of curtailing the suffering and damage inflicted by this devastating virus.

In times of threat and danger, leaders are called to act with courage and conviction, to review and analyze the evidence in front of us, and to respond in ways that safeguard the common good — the well-being and welfare of our communities. As individuals, we are also called to play our individual roles, to act in ways that prioritize the health and wellbeing of our neighbors and fellow citizens.

This means that most of us have had to forgo activities in which we normally engage in an effort to do our own small part to mitigate the magnitude of impact. These efforts, though seemingly small, nevertheless demonstrate courageous responses to dealing with “danger.”

The other character in the Chinese word for “crisis” is, notably, opportunity. One might ask, what opportunities can emerge from a crisis such as this one? Can crises, particularly those that bring significant suffering with them, ever bring about good? At Dakota Wesleyan University, as well as in my own personal life, I have witnessed a variety of efforts to respond to this crisis in ways that have created opportunities, a variety of actions that have enabled us to more boldly and courageously support our coworkers, our neighbors, and our fellow citizens.

Over the course of the past few weeks, Dakota Wesleyan University faculty — rather than bemoaning what represented, essentially, an overnight transition to a new virtual teaching modality — quickly adapted and leveraged the university’s DigitalDWU initiative to move all face-to-face courses into an online format.

Perhaps even more impressive, however, were the efforts of faculty and staff members to reach out to students. This outreach was motivated by a genuine concern for the health and wellbeing of our students and their families, many of whom now found themselves dispersed across the country and globe. Our mental health counselor made individual calls to check on the well-being of students and staff.

Coaches engaged in virtual strength and conditioning sessions or simply reached out to their student athletes to share time with one another. The Student Life staff boxed up the belongings of students from distant locations and sent special care packages to families in need. All of these actions represented ways of expressing the university’s strong sense of community and family that had been so suddenly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A lot has transpired in the past month. Students have gone home. Sports seasons and theatrical productions have been cancelled. Commencement activities have been postponed. And, while I feel a deep sadness that for our graduating seniors who will not experience the rituals and rhythm of their senior spring semester on campus, I also find myself heartened by the seniors who have quickly shifted their focus and reframed their collegiate experience from one of culmination, to one of journey.

These seniors continue to mentor and support younger students using virtual tools, they offer support to peer’s through participation in virtual juried recitals, some are distributing food, some have formed prayer circles, others are offering services in support of medical personnel, and some have sent handwritten notes of gratitude to faculty, staff, and administrators. For these students, graduation has already ceased to be an end or a finish line, and has been embraced, instead, as a beginning.

These seniors, perhaps the majority, are already looking through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis and embracing new opportunities to use their education as a vehicle of compassion and caring in a world in desperate need of hope.

Friends, amid danger, I am comforted by the multitude of ways in which our students, faculty, staff, and members of Mitchell and our country have embraced this crisis as an opportunity. As we move forward, may we continue to offer our hands and our hearts, our kind words and our compassionate engagement, to one another. As Coretta Scott King aptly asserted, “Let us remember that the greatness of our community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

This, friends, is our opportunity.


Novak: Danger and opportunity during crisis | The Daily Republic — April 14, 2020
Source: The Daily Republic

DWU President Published in “President2President” Series — Oct. 15, 2019

Dakota Wesleyan University President, Dr. Amy Novak, was recently published in the second chapter of the 2019-2020 "President2President" thought leadership series. Her chapter, "Building an Innovation Culture in Higher Education," emphasizes DWU's commitment to innovation and the ways in which it has shaped the culture on campus. Novak provides practical tips on how colleges can effectively promote innovation and evolution to help reach new heights in higher education.


A little more than a decade ago, as the university I serve prepared for a visit from its regional accrediting agency, a senior faculty member characterized the institution in the following terms: “We are a mediocre university, with a mediocre faculty and mediocre facilities, serving a mediocre community.” At the conclusion of the accreditation site visit, the Higher Learning Commission described the faculty relationship with the then president as “highly tenuous” and the University as being “without focus.”

The challenges the Dakota Wesleyan University faced at that point included a rising discount rate, declining enrollments, low student retention rates, a bloated curriculum, poor assessment practices, an inability to attract and retain strong faculty members, red budgets, and rising student accounts receivables. The University faced a critical decision: courageously reposition itself, or continue along the road of mediocrity and hope for a shift in the winds of fortune. 

Today, unfortunately, the list of challenges facing small universities like my own has only grown longer. Tragically, many university leaders find themselves trapped in a reactive posture from day one on the job, responding to demands to fix problems that have been years in the making and resolve a never-ending succession of crises. 

Reactionary leadership often leads to a series of quick-fix strategies: cost containment decisions, the elimination of programs, outsourcing services, and/or larger draws from university endowments. This pursuit of short-term solvency in an effort to “right the ship” might allow for near-term survival, but it often does so at significant institutional cost, leaving in its wake fear, anxiety, and distrust, effectively undermining the capacity for positive, authentic, and enduring change. 

As Dakota Wesleyan University faced its moment of decision, the board courageously rejected quick fixes and embraced a leadership effort prioritizing the development of an innovative campus culture as the primary strategy for repositioning the university. Over the course of the next decade, the university placed a cycle of innovation at the core of the campus culture.

"The board courageously rejected quick fixes and embraced a leadership effort prioritizing the development of an innovative campus culture as the primary strategy for repositioning the University."   

Over time, this approach paid appreciable dividends as the University succeeded in shifting its culture (step by step) from one characterized by a scarcity mindset and widespread distrust to one that embraced experimentation, fostered innovation, and initiated the development of systems to ensure long-term sustainable growth. The innovation cycle consists of five phases, which flow in an evolutionary and continual cycle: ideation, intelligence, iteration, implementation, and impact assessment. In the early stages, each phase may be seen as a discrete element. However, as the culture of innovation matures, one finds that all elements of the cycle are occurring constantly and simultaneously. Moreover, as the innovation cycle becomes more firmly integrated in an institution’s culture, it engages the entire community in becoming problem-solvers and innovators as the university’s constituencies seek, collectively, to respond in relevant ways to the constituencies it serves. In what follows, I offer a brief sketch of each element of the innovation cycle. 

In this phase, faculty, staff, students, alumni, regional business leaders, and other constituencies share ideas about how the university might better serve its constituencies. A university that regularly invites people to generate ideas through structured ideation sessions, advisory boards, or other input mechanisms cultivates a culture in which all constituencies have a voice, and a stake, in the vitality and viability of the university. 

One of our university’s more successful ideation opportunities was an innovation summit. Regional business leaders, faculty, staff, and alumni participated in a four-hour focused listening and input session. More than 110 persons representing nine different industry sectors attended the session. Thought leaders offered focused presentations supplemented by videos and statistical trend analyses. Participants were then invited to provide feedback from various industry sectors about trends shaping their respective industries, challenges related to their labor force, and skill deficits they were encountering in new hires The University collected extensive data from the Summit. This data made its way, in turn, through additional phases of the cycle, eventually informing the creation and revision of curriculum and the launch of innovative adult learner certificate programs that responded to industry needs of the region. Additionally, the Summit helped forge relationships between business leaders and faculty, led to financial support for new program creation, created new internship opportunities, and increased philanthropic giving. The Summit also directly challenged the critique of higher education’s lack of responsiveness to industry. 

The second phase of the innovation cycle involves the procurement of intelligence—data analytics or market research—regarding a particular idea. The business summit provided one form of intelligence, but institutions fostering a culture of innovation need to be prepared to make investments to discern the potential viability and marketability of new initiatives. In some cases, data may be collected within the institution. In other cases, data may be available through state or regional databases. Often, a full-blown market analysis is not necessary to move an initiative forward. Leaders feel obligated to invest in extensive market analyses when there may be other strategies to test the ideas in ways that yield more valuable or actionable data. 

Phase three offers institutions a way to test projects for viability that may spare them from making significant initial investments in untested initiatives. The iteration phase, otherwise known as the pilot project phase, allows institutions to test initiatives and understand responses to such initiatives. For example, two years ago, our faculty adopted a commitment to digital pedagogy which included a one-to-one device initiative. Two years prior to full adoption and approval by the faculty, however, several investments were made to test the viability of the new digital pedagogy. Several faculty members attended initial trainings and volunteered to pilot the use of digital pedagogies in their classes. The pilot allowed the faculty to work through issues and understand the potential pitfalls and opportunities that the new pedagogy presented. These results were then shared with the full faculty who were able to embrace the new pedagogical approach with more enthusiasm, in part because of the confidence gained through the pilot project, the modifications made to the institution-wide rollout that were considered because of the pilot, and the overall student feedback from the pilot courses. 

Recently, the University piloted a new model for adult learning that supplemented traditional online learning with supplemental coaching from practitioners. The positive impact assessment from the pilot has led the University to explore utilizing this sort of coaching in other adult learning programs. Faculty are often reticent to embrace new initiatives, and administrators are often intimidated by the tremendous investment required for full-scale implementation. “Pilots” provide opportunities for a “proof of concept” and help to ascertain the viability of new initiatives. “Pilots” also allow the university to have multiple test projects occurring simultaneously, thereby fostering greater opportunities for expansion of revenue generating initiatives, rather than relying on a succession of high-stakes initiatives that repeatedly put “all eggs in one basket.”

The implementation phase of the innovation cycle builds upon the lessons learned through the pilot during the iteration phase. Some projects never make it to this full-scale implementation phase or, alternatively, may be radically revised and re-piloted before making it to full-scale implementation. A partnership arrangement with an outside vendor to run the University’s fitness center went through several pilot phases before being fully implemented. The creation of a digital media and design major, that was developed with the philanthropic support of a regional technology enterprise, began as a handful of courses within the communications curriculum before being revised, modified, and implemented as a full-scale major aligned with industry internships. While the implementation phase of most major initiatives requires the most significant investment, boards and university leaders feel more confident in launching new initiatives that have progressed through an intentional process of ideating, gathering intelligence, and testing through pilot projects, prior to moving forward with a full-scale launch. 

Many university leaders seek quick impacts and are drawn to full-scale implementation before piloting new initiatives. These types of large-scale implementations, without the benefit of a pilot phase, often fail to successfully launch because of lack of faculty, staff, donor, or student buy-in. Our experience strongly suggests that support from board members, faculty, and business leaders is significantly strengthened by a more intentional process characterized by the innovation cycle. It also requires less upfront investment and assists in confirming the accuracy of a business plan for a particular project. In one case, the University launched a pilot of a new initiative and was never able to secure sufficient students to justify the full-scale redeployment of a significant number of faculty. Thus, the initiative was scratched. Using the innovation cycle methodology allows for a more accurate business plan to be developed and approved in support of new initiatives. 

Impact Assessment
As new initiatives are continually implemented, university leadership and appropriate university committees must continue to monitor their impact. For some initiatives, the lifecycle may be only a few years or perhaps a single cohort. For others, the initiative may continue to expand over time, building the net revenue base of the university. These outcomes include student learning assessments, net revenue goals, enrollment and retention goals, cost savings, visibility indicators, and others. Ongoing evaluation and impact assessment of new initiatives is critical to creating financial sustainability in an innovation-driven culture. The idea that universities only add programs and never consider the deletion of programs limits future innovation. Savings realized by closing programs that have reached the end of their respective lifecycles allows the university to shift resources toward other new initiatives. 

Use of the innovation cycle recognizes the inevitability of failure in conjunction with innovation. Not everything will work; however, application of the innovation cycle methodology enables failure to happen at less cost to the university. More ideas can be tested more quickly for viability. Culture shifts occur as new ideas are tested and greater buy-in is achieved through the piloting process. The institution encounters less risk in the adoption of a new initiative using the methodology. People embrace a higher level of risk tolerance and become active change agents as opposed to skeptical naysayers. 

"Use of the innovation cycle recognizes the inevitability of failure in conjunction with innovation. Not everything will work; however, application of the innovation cycle methodology enables failure to happen at less cost to the university. More ideas can be tested more quickly for viability. Culture shifts occur as new ideas are tested and greater buy-in is achieved through the piloting process. The institution encounters less risk in the adoption of a new initiative using the methodology. People embrace a higher level of risk tolerance and become active change agents as opposed to skeptical naysayers." 

As the list of challenges facing higher education (and particularly small, private higher education) grows ever longer and more challenging, the impulse for university leaders is often a reactionary one. Take control. Do something. Create dramatic change. Find and pull the levers that will right the ship and set it on a course for success. As strong as this impulse is, it is probably the wrong impulse, and it is wrong for a number of reasons. First, it assumes the overall soundness of the current model of higher education. Higher education needs to be feeling its way toward what is next. The fact that we do not know exactly what that will look like understandably generates a great deal of anxiety, but it doesn’t change the reality. Second, bold and dramatic actions, particularly when they don’t work out as anticipated, undermine institutional trust and generate even more skepticism for the next round of bold and dramatic actions. 

Somewhat counter-intuitively, the most productive response to moments of critical decision at colleges and universities may be to cede control, to facilitate conversations across university constituencies about what the university might become. To launch a score of pilot programs to see what works and what might make it to the next level. To nurture a cultural of innovation, a culture that transforms employees into stakeholders, not just in their own jobs, but in the relevance and vitality of their institution. This path, obviously, is not without its own risks. Ceding control is not the same as advocating a free-for-all. The high-achievement world of higher education can struggle with the notion of accepting that not all pilot projects will be successful. But if higher education is to evolve in ways that ensure its continued relevance and vitality, embracing a culture of innovation seems a more likely road to get us to that place.

For more information about President2President, visit: 


DWU President Published in “President2President” Series — Oct. 15, 2019
Source: DWU Website

NOVAK: The community storyteller: Our newspaper — Oct. 10, 2019

Confessions of an awkward teenager: I loved the newspaper.

Turn back time to when the coolest thing was getting a pair of squishy foam headphones plugged into a new thing called a Sony Cassette Walkman, and there l was with my nose in the creased pages of the daily paper.

My grandmother, Josephine Puetz, taught me how to decrypt the stock market report. My parents frequently quizzed us on current events. The newspaper was our daily connection with the larger world.

Mitchell High School speech and debate became my social outlet to not only a quirky bunch of friends, but to a global village. Between the paper’s smooth pages, civil wars tore apart Central America, agriculture perched on a dubious future, neighbors became local sports stories, and city councils debated how to strengthen communities. I carried an ox cart of newspapers in a bulging briefcase full of folders, notecards, and yellow legal pads.

I even went to the library and pulled those wooden swordlike rollers off the rack that held back recent back issues. At that time, the newspaper was a resource, a window when there was no webpage, a place where the happenings in Alexandria, Emery, and Parkston were one column away from Mikhail Gorbachev’s Glasnost, the exploding Challenger, and a first annual World AIDS Day.

In addition to debate, I competed in foreign extemporaneous speaking, my daily litany including reading through four to six newspapers and clipping the stories that may help shape a future speech for competition.

These activities may seem archaic with our 24/7 news channels, internet links, and a president who Tweets — but I still love the paper, and for more than just nostalgia.

The newspaper — and maybe more specifically your local newspaper — is a collection of storytellers who actually have the ear of the village. What is important is that these storytellers must also work to understand the village’s heart: how the people desire connection, the common good, and the hope for better conditions.

By “village” I don’t mean a specific community or even a group of people called “readers” or “subscribers.” The newspaper storytellers weave lives into the narrative in an attempt to help each of us better connect to each other, to understand the global community in which we all reside.

So what is it about storytellers?

The Lebanese American writer, Khalil Gibran, one remarked, “Next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling.” Does this surprise you? Probably not if you are reading this. Readers value storytelling. Readers don’t mind investing their personal time in a story. If someone tries to make the case that newspapers have lost their stake-hold in humanity’s interest, the counterpoint may flip the question: Have we lost interest in our basic human need, storytelling?

I don’t think we have.

People Netflix binge to see how their favorite stories unfold. Perhaps the challenge the newspaper faces is that we can’t binge read the paper, because the paper unfolds the story as it is made. The value of storytelling emerges as a confluence of pertinence, patience, participation, and purpose.

We might resist the storyteller because we may not think the story has any pertinence to us. It may feel as if we remain distant from the story. We might forget that in some way, traceable only by some divine finger, we are the story. It’s as if we can hear Walt Whitman’s conjecture, “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

Again, the newspaper storytellers weave lives into the narrative in an attempt to help us all see how our lives connect to the narrative. The newspaper helps us to understand who we are in our community and the diversity of opinions that constitute our community. The newspaper allows us an opportunity to ponder, reflect, and consider how the story weaves into each of our own personal lives.

For most of us, we hold the contention, “Who am I that the storytellers should notice me?” This is what we may say to ourselves. And yet, if our newspaper storytellers know the heart of the village, know we want connection, the common good, a hope for better conditions — they are writing about us.

As we celebrate National Newspaper Week, we owe our thanks to the storytellers whose powerful narratives tell our collective story.


NOVAK: The community storyteller: Our newspaper — Oct. 10, 2019
Source: Daily Republic

DWU President to Speak on Future Trends Forum — Oct. 9, 2019

DWU President, Amy Novak has been invited to speak on THE Future Trends Forum on Thursday, Oct. 10 at 1 p.m.

The topic for the live show will be entrepreneurial and innovative experiments in rural higher education.

A live stream will be available at Chrome browsers are preferred, or guests can view the show via the Shindig mobile app.

The session is scheduled to last one hour.


DWU President to Speak on Future Trends Forum — Oct. 9, 2019 
Source: DWU Website

Tweet from NAIA — Oct. 8, 2019

“Looking to expand your college athletics program? The NAIA's Return on Athletics® Insights tool can help you identify options for growth for your institution. Hear from Dr. Amy Novak @dwusports -” — Oct. 8, 2019

Source: Tweet from NAIA

Tweet from UM Schools, Colleges & Universities — April 29, 2019

“Wow! With @PresidentNovak presidential leadership, @DakotaWesleyan has raised nearly $45 million and increased enrollment for five straight years! We applaud her vision for innovative programs that create results! #churchrelated #highered” — April 29, 2019

Source: Tweet from UM Schools, Colleges & Universities

NOVAK: Our future built on grit — March 15, 2019

This past week, I watched both our men's and women's basketball teams lose in the final seconds of a hard-fought contest. The mother of a senior basketball player seated behind me remarked, "It's just so hard to see your kids work this hard and lose.
Written By: Dr. Amy Novak | Mar 15th 2019 - 8am.

This past week, I watched both our men's and women's basketball teams lose in the final seconds of a hard-fought contest. The mother of a senior basketball player seated behind me remarked, "It's just so hard to see your kids work this hard and lose."

As a mother, I agree. As parents, it is hard to watch such heartfelt efforts end in a loss.

However, at this game, and at this time of the academic year when our students begin their final preparations for their senior capstone project presentations, or music majors prepare for their final juried recitals, or student actors prepare for their final theatrical production of the year, I am reminded of the importance of one word: grit.

Angela Duckworth's book, "Grit," defines this characteristic as a firmness of character, an indomitable spirit, a perseverance and passion for long-term goals. As much as we may hurt, as parents, to see our children lose or not succeed as we had hoped, we can perhaps take a bit of comfort in knowing that such setbacks serve as a learning experience.

I continue to be inspired by the grit I see in so many of our young adults. Believe me when I say that it takes grit to be an offensive lineman who gets knocked down multiple times per game and still stands back up and returns to his position.

It takes grit to master a Bach piano concerto along with 12-15 other pieces for a senior juried recital. It takes grit to spend hours on a science fair project monitoring results and preparing for a final presentation. It takes grit to receive critique from a teacher, mentor or coach, and to commit to learning from the mistake. It takes grit to lose in double overtime and walk off the court dedicated to practicing harder, and working longer, so that maybe next year's outcome is different.

Grit requires both a mental and physical commitment. Grit is not going through the drill because one has mentally understood it and then physically engaging the drill with lackluster effort. Grit is both the mental mastery of what one is trying to accomplish coupled with the physical effort to finish the task, achieve the goal or master the movement.

When I hear community members lament the tragic direction of our youth and young adults, I grow weary of an unfortunate and misleading narrative. Instead, I remain continually impressed by the mental, physical and emotional grit our students demonstrate in their management of academic, co-curricular and faith-inspired activities.

Grit matters in our workplaces and our world. Grit will define our ability to compete in an increasingly competitive, global economic environment. Grit accelerates success.

In our recent revisions to the DWU curriculum, we have begun discussing how we help students see the value of failure and the importance of grit. In an educational environment where failing has a negative connotation, we are attempting to remove the stigma of failure and replace it by acknowledging that failure can be a transformational learning moment.

When I watch young women and men pick themselves up after a tough loss, I know that a powerful life lesson is embedded in their experience. Grit develops from loss. Grit develops from disappointment. Grit develops from failure.

So while I, like many of our Tiger fans in this community and across the country, would have preferred a little less heartbreak, I'm inspired by how our student leaders on these teams demonstrated grit - by speaking across social media about what they learned and what they aspire to do differently next year. In these experiences and countless others, we are honing our grit, developing our resiliency, and propelling ourselves forward, committed to changing the outcome the next time around.

When our students in their DWU applied leadership class experience an untenable situation, grit helps them navigate the outcome. When the first in the family to attend college leaves Los Angeles for Mitchell, South Dakota, it takes grit to persist and graduate.

When a young person finds himself in America, having crossed the border as a young child, and navigates an immigration system for ten years before securing his citizenship, it takes grit and persistence. When a lesbian student transcends the insults and snide comments to become an immensely effective student senate leader, it demonstrates grit.

These young people are our future. If their current performance in their academic and co-curricular lives suggests anything, it suggests that they are developing grit, and all of us who ponder our future - as a community, state, and nation - should find this very reassuring.


NOVAK: Our future built on grit — March 15, 2019
Source: Daily Republic

DWU’s President Amy Novak receives Courageous Leadership Award — Jan. 23, 2019

For her progressive leadership and innovative steps toward partnerships, educational outreach and overall growth, Dr. Amy Novak, president of Dakota Wesleyan University, has received the 2019 Courageous Leadership Award by Credo.

Credo is a comprehensive higher education consulting firm and publisher of “Pivot: A Vision for the New University,” in which Novak and DWU are spotlighted. “Pivot” will be available for sale Feb. 13.

The award was given earlier this month during Credo’s annual dinner at the CIC Presidents Institute, this year held in Scottsdale, Ariz. Also, in attendance was Rita Johnson, vice chair of the DWU Board of Trustees. She had the honor of introducing Novak during the award ceremony.

“Over DWU’s 133-year history, a vision has emerged of creating and evolving an inclusive educational community that transforms the learning experience,” Johnsons said at the ceremony. “This has served as the cornerstone for which DWU was built, and with Amy’s fearless and devoted guidance, it remains as a foundation for our future.”

Novak was named Dakota Wesleyan’s 20th and first female president in 2013. During Novak’s presidential leadership, the university has dedicated the Glenda K. Corrigan Health Sciences Center, the DWU/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex, the DWU black box theatre, and Dakota Hall residence hall. DWU has also dedicated the Ron and Sheilah Gates Departments of Music and Theatre, the Arlene Gates Department of Nursing, and Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences. During Novak’s presidency, DWU has raised nearly $45 million and increased enrollment for five straight years.

“As president, Dr. Novak set out to make DWU an active leader, community partner, and incubator for economic growth and entrepreneurial thinking in South Dakota with an explicit connection to serving rural communities and students,” Credo stated in its announcement. “She and her team created and continue to cultivate and nurture bidirectional partnerships with local technical colleges, industries and businesses. … DWU is now a leader in rural workforce development, contributing to the sustainable growth of communities, a healthier South Dakota, and their graduates’ future job security. The momentum from such partnerships has reinvigorated the campus, the community and South Dakota. DWU stands as a compelling model for other small, rural colleges to examine.”

Novak is quick to credit the university as a whole for the successes over the past years and is looking forward to partnerships and growth yet to come.

“The award truly recognizes the entire university’s efforts to be entrepreneurial and innovative in our rural region,” Novak said. “Our staff and faculty have worked to strengthen the curriculum to enhance student outcomes and career readiness. This, along with the addition of new program offerings, the partnerships and collaborations with business and industry across the state and region, and the support of a tremendous community of donors, all reflect our commitment to not endorse the status quo, but instead embrace our roots and become a leader in responding to the workforce and leadership needs of our region.

“I’m honored to have been able to accept this award – absolutely – but I feel more grateful every day to be a part of the Dakota Wesleyan team.”

Novak graduated from Mitchell High School, majored in history at the University of Notre Dame, earned a master’s in economics at Wright State University, and obtained her Ed.D. in interdisciplinary leadership from Creighton University. She served as provost and executive vice president at DWU from 2008 until assuming the presidency. She had also served DWU in several positions since 2003: director of Student Support Services TRiO Grant, dean of enrollment management and vice president for enrollment management.


DWU’s President Amy Novak receives Courageous Leadership Award — Jan. 23, 2019 
Source: DWU Website

DWU's Dr. Amy Novak wins the 2019 Courageous Leadership Award — Nov. 26, 2018

Credo is thrilled to announce President Amy Novak from Dakota Wesleyan University, Mitchell, SD, as the winner of the upcoming 2019 Courageous Leadership Award, given during Credo's annual dinner at the CIC Presidents Institute. 

Leadership award recipients demonstrate one or many of the following achievements as a part of their institutional leadership:

Institutional growth across one or more key indicators: enrollment, fundraising, retention.
A proven track record of fostering collaborative relationships among individuals and teams within their institution.
Acknowledgement by peers and/or within the field of higher education as an advocate and champion of independent higher education.
Articulation and execution of a clear vision for the future of their institution.
Next-practice innovation in operations, academics, net revenue, strategic planning, student success, or other critical areas.
Strategic, game-changing planning for and investments in campus spaces and places. 

It’s safe to say that Dr. Novak checks all these boxes--and does so with great aplomb.

A catalyzing leader and determined problem solver, Dr. Novak became the first female president of Dakota Wesleyan University in 2013. In just a short time, the enrollment, retention, and fundraising at this rural university all increased dramatically, leading to the addition of a 50,000 square foot science center, a 90,000 square foot health and wellness complex, a 25,000 square foot theatre and performing arts space, a 114-bed residence hall, and plans are in the works to break ground on a new school of business in 2019. Since she assumed the presidency in 2013, the university has raised nearly $45 million, increased enrollment for a record-breaking five straight years, and had an all-time institutional high in retention in 2018.

As President, Dr. Novak set out to make DWU an active leader, community partner, and incubator for economic growth and entrepreneurial thinking in South Dakota with an explicit connection to serving rural communities and students. She and her team created and continue to cultivate and nurture bidirectional partnerships with local technical colleges, industries, and businesses. Successes from such partnerships include critical workforce development in the areas of healthcare and education. DWU is now a leader in rural workforce development, contributing to the sustainable growth of communities, a healthier South Dakota, and their graduates’ future job security. The momentum from such partnerships has reinvigorated the campus, the community, and South Dakota. DWU stands as a compelling model for other small, rural colleges to examine.

Always looking to improve the university, her student’s career prospects, and community partnerships, Dr. Novak says, “I spend a considerable amount of time meeting with business leaders, non-profit leaders, and state and local government officials to find ways that higher education can be of value in a more sophisticated way for business and industry.”

The roots of these external partnerships take hold inside the classroom. The university’s curriculum includes required coursework in innovation, creativity and problem solving, financial literacy, and applied leadership, as well as a four-year program designed to prepare students for the life skills integral to post-college success. From a student’s classroom experience to their practicum or internship through their ongoing career, Dakota Wesleyan is the crux of an ever-extending vital pipeline, connecting opportunities with resources, and infusing the community with well-prepared nurses, teachers, business leaders, problem solvers, and thoughtful, engaged citizens. Dr. Novak remains deeply invested in supporting first-generation, low-income college students and sees the development of the spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual mobility of students as a fundamental role of the university.

A South Dakota native, Dr. Novak attended Mitchell High School, majored in history at the University of Notre Dame, earned a master’s in economics at Wright State University, and obtained her Ed.D. in interdisciplinary leadership from Creighton University. 

Amy, since you assumed your role as President of DWU, you continue to push DWU to greater heights, to the extraordinary benefit of both your students and of South Dakota. Thank you for your vision and leadership in higher education. We are so proud to partner with you and your university, and we look forward to seeing what groundbreaking new ideas and innovations are still to come.


DWU's Dr. Amy Novak wins the 2019 Courageous Leadership Award — Nov. 26, 2018
Source: CREDO