By Cat Caracci ’14
Hannah Storm Journalism Intern
A trip to India sparked a career for Amy Novak ’93.
Through a Saint Mary’s College program there while a Notre Dame undergraduate, Novak had the opportunity to study the role of women in the developing world and how to empower them to be successful.
“I came back from India compelled to find a career in which I could be part of a larger change and instrumental in helping people improve their livelihoods,” Novak said.
Since graduation, Novak has worked with mentally ill women, immigrants, and in corporate America. Now, as president of Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota, Novak still sees her job as one that improves the lives and futures of others.
“One of the joys of working at Dakota Wesleyan is that we serve a lot of first-generation, low-income students. Every day, I encounter students who didn’t think higher education was possible and are now going on to graduate, get jobs, and increase the overall economic mobility of themselves and of their families,” Novak said. “It’s a real privilege to be part of that process.”
I had the chance to talk recently with Novak about her new job—she was officially sworn in on Sept. 27—and her hopes for the future.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It’s different every day, and I appreciate the diversity. My responsibilities are split across four major areas.
I’m involved in the strategic direction of the university, so I spend time exploring our vision and how we’re executing on that vision. I’m also involved in community relations—looking at the role of the small private university in rural America and asking, “How can Dakota Wesleyan better support the economic development of our region?”
Fundraising for the university is another area. I spend quite a bit of time meeting with alumni and donors and friends of the university, getting to know them and learn how Dakota Wesleyan changed their lives.
The fourth area is my commitment to staying connected with our students, whether it’s meeting them for lunch, sitting in on Student Senate meetings, or gathering a small group of scholars to talk about how we might improve the university. For me, that is a pivotal part of my job—it is something I’m committed to and I’m able to be committed to at a small private institution.
How did Notre Dame prepare you for this position?
Notre Dame helped me develop strong communication skills and provided me with the ability to solve problems, innovate, research, and analyze. I’m a passionate advocate of the liberal arts, and those were skills I honed in philosophy, theology, and history classes. They were at the heart of my education and I certainly see their value in what I do today.
What are some of your goals for Dakota Wesleyan University?
We are working toward growing our enrollment. We are also striving to identify how we live out our faith commitment. We’re an institution of the United Methodist Church, but open to people of all denominations, so we want to develop our curriculum in a way that helps students appreciate their faith. We hope that Dakota Wesleyan students leave with a better sense of their spiritual selves and how that calls them to look at ways to live more justly and act with greater levels of compassion and mercy in the world. Finally, we have some projects related to capital infrastructure on our campus and we are seeking ways to strengthen our overall endowment so we can continue to support our mission of educating low-income, first-generation students.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I happen to be the mom of eight children. There’s a lot of discussion in our world today about balancing career and life, particularly for women, and I just think that there are new models of doing that. One of my greatest experiences, as I look back at Notre Dame, was that I learned to value family, and I learned how to balance my time.
Natalie Martinez ’06 and Paige Courtney Barnes ’06 never met at Notre Dame, but they had a lot in common during their days on campus.
View All Alumni Stories
Hesburgh Lecture Series brings Notre Dame faculty into your club community for continuing learning and intellectual dialogue. More
Additional learning resources are also available. Please browse our list and take full advantage of any you find useful. More
Learn from and engage with Notre Dame experts on a wide variety of topics, meet interesting alums, give your career a boost, and more with our online learning series. Find event
Thu, January 29, 2015 2:30 PM to 3:00 PM
The Bouqs Company offers a new, consumer-friendly approach to online flower shopping. Join founder and C.E.O. John Tabis ’00 for a look at this growing company and Tabis’ rise through the business world. Read More
View All Online Learning
High Hopes for Haiti
By Jeff Remington, Guest Blogger
The Body of Christ is present amidst the abject poverty and strife in Haiti. Through the compassion of many, there are High Hopes for Haiti. One such story of hope is a collaboration between Palmyra Middle School in Pennsylvania, and two schools in St. Marc, Haiti.
Find service opportunities in your community
Learn how to manage a service project
Notre Dame clubs committed to community service. Alumni, parents, and friends of the University have the opportunity to participate in this tradition of service through their local Notre Dame clubs.
Read Today's Prayer
Online prayer cards from FaithND
Pray the Gospel daily through email
A Strong Hand on the Shoulder
While I had freaked out about plenty of things in the past—college applications, study abroad, first dates, job searches, wedding planning—nothing terrified me half as much as the prospect of giving birth.
See today’s Saint of the Day
View All Saints
Alumni weigh in on which Dining Hall rules.
North | South
Notre Dame Clubs by the Numbers
Download ND wallpapers for your phone, PC, or social media accounts.
View All Posts
View All Trips
March 17, 2015 to March 28, 2015
From Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom” and the rich multicultural heritage of the …
April 15, 2015 to April 28, 2015
Peek into the past, present, and future of China on this comprehensive tour of a diverse …
April 25, 2015 to May 3, 2015
Experience the elegance, excitement and captivating cultures of the Mediterranean on a luxury …
Your generosity makes the dream of a Notre Dame education possible for many - and extraordinary for all. You can select how to help fulfill critical University priorities.
Make A Gift
For more than 35 years, the Sorin Society has made a difference for Notre Dame.
The Sorin Society continues to fulfill Father Sorin’s bold vision that a humble log chapel would grow into a powerful force for good.