Dakota Wesleyan University President Amy C. Novak, Ed.D. was introduced today as the next president of St. Ambrose University, a private, Catholic institution of more than 3,000 students located in Davenport, Iowa.
Dr. Novak will remain president at DWU through July 2021 and will begin her tenure at St. Ambrose in early August, succeeding Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, Ph.D.
Doug Powers, chair of the DWU Board of Trustees, will convene with the board this week to begin a national search for the 21st president. The board will retain a national search firm to assist in the process.
“I hope you will join me, and all of the members of the Dakota Wesleyan Board of Trustees, in expressing our gratitude to President Novak for her outstanding service to DWU and in congratulating her on her new appointment,” Powers said in a message to the campus community.
“I sincerely hope St. Ambrose will benefit, as much as Dakota Wesleyan has, from her vision, dedication, and leadership. It is difficult to overstate the extraordinary and far-reaching impact President Novak’s leadership has had on Dakota Wesleyan University. By every measure, Dakota Wesleyan is a stronger institution than when she assumed the presidency eight short years ago. She has achieved everything the board has asked of her and more,” Powers said.
“Dr. Amy Novak brings proven presidential leadership to St. Ambrose University,” Bishop Zinkula said. “Innovative, articulate, energetic, and compassionate, Amy clearly has the requisite personal gifts and professional experience to shape the future of the university in a substantial manner. She has a passion for supporting students and actively engaging with the community, including business leaders. Her respect for the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and Catholic Social Teachings will be a tremendous asset. Amy will be an outstanding leader and she and her family will be a wonderful addition to the Quad Cities community,” he said.
A native South Dakotan and a graduate of Mitchell High School, Novak has served as president of DWU since April of 2013.
During Novak’s tenure, Dakota Wesleyan experienced record enrollment growth, surpassed all previous university fundraising records, made significant updates to the campus’ infrastructure, formed a variety of partnerships with businesses in the region, bolstered spiritual engagement on the campus, and launched a variety of innovative academic programs and initiatives.
The unprecedented success during Novak’s tenure led to DWU being profiled – along with a handful of other U.S. colleges and universities – in the 2019 book “Pivot: A Vision for the New University.”
“For the past 18 years, DWU has been my home,” Novak said. “My entire family has been immeasurably enriched and blessed by the friendships, by the work relationships, and by the boundless love and support extended to us by the entire university community. I am confident that DWU is in a strong position to attract and hire a capable, new leader prepared to build on the achievements of the past decade and equipped with the skills and vision to lead DWU forward into the years to come. Please know that I will continue to work diligently on behalf of the university, our faculty, our staff, our students, and the community in the months ahead,” she said.
Novak was appointed DWU president after serving as provost from 2007 to 2013, and vice president for enrollment management from 2004 to 2007. She joined the university in November 2003 as a grant administrator in the TRIO Student Support Services program.
Prior to joining DWU, she worked in a variety of roles while traveling with her husband, Ken, as he actively served 13 years in the U.S. Air Force.
Novak earned a Doctor of Education degree in Interdisciplinary Leadership from Creighton University in 2014, a Master of Science in Social and Applied Economics from Wright State University in 1997 and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Notre Dame in 1993.
As president at Dakota Wesleyan, Novak led two capital campaigns raising over $50 million dollars. Much of this fundraising supported building initiatives on DWU’s Mitchell campus, including a 50,000-square-foot science center in 2013; a 90,000-square-foot sport and wellness complex in 2016; an alumni welcome center and performing arts space in 2017; and a new residence hall in 2018. A new School of Business, Innovation, and Leadership will open in fall 2021. Novak’s efforts also helped grow endowed support for student scholarships and endowed faculty positions.
In her leadership role, Novak has consistently sought to make higher education more responsive to the needs of students – particularly students from underserved populations such as first-generation students, students of color, and students from low-income backgrounds – as well as to the needs of the communities and regions that colleges and universities serve, particularly in rural regions of the U.S.
At DWU, Novak has been a consistent leader in exploring how technology can enhance the educational experience. In 2018, DWU implemented Digital DWU – a university-wide digital initiative to enhance the student learning experience by providing iPads to all full-time, residential students. This initiative has changed the way that students collaborate in and outside of the classroom and the nature of student assignments, with video and podcast assignments regularly replacing more traditional academic assessment measures.
“The DWU faculty are deeply appreciative of Dr. Novak’s vision and leadership in her roles as both provost and – for the past eight years – as president of Dakota Wesleyan University,” said DWU Provost Dr. Joseph Roidt.
“Despite facing an exceedingly challenging demographic environment, President Novak succeeded in growing and sustaining overall enrollment at the university during her presidential tenure. This growth was achieved, in no small part, through Dr. Novak’s innovative vision for higher education. Dr. Novak consistently challenged academic affairs to think innovatively about how higher education could be delivered differently and with greater impact in order to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse group of learners. She will be sincerely missed, but we are exceedingly grateful for having been the beneficiaries of her extraordinary vision and leadership,” Roidt said.
“Through a variety of university initiatives and her own tireless work ethic, President Novak has raised the profile of the university throughout the region and across the nation,” Powers said. “Put simply, President Novak has left an indelible imprint on Dakota Wesleyan for the foreseeable future, and we are all grateful beneficiaries of that imprint,” he said.
Novak said she and her family will carry Dakota Wesleyan University with them when they move on to a new adventure.
“Ken and I remain grateful for your friendships, humbled by our collaborative work together, wiser for the tremendous learning we have experienced, and truly better human beings because of the interactions and experiences we been so fortunate to share with each of you,” she said. “God’s guiding hand will continue to move Wesleyan forward. Its mission is too critical to not continue to serve as a guiding light for the region and beyond,” Novak said.