July 27—Last August, Professor of Communication Tim Kowalik, Ed.D. left his quiet office for a rather ruckus sabbatical in Africa and South America. Technically, sabbatical is supposed to be “a ceasing,” but Kowalik managed only to cease sitting still as he ventured from Kenya to South Africa to Ecuador.
”The joy of traveling overseas is tremendous,” he said, “I’m a firm believer in cross-cultural experiences, not only for students, but for faculty.”
Kowalik recalled the depth of learning he experienced overseas, drawing from a cistern of fresh memories: worshipping in the Mega churches of Nairobi filled with thousands of missional believers, “Kenyans for Kenya,” filled with godly power; taking in the coastal magnificence of Cape Town on his bike, out in the open air; befriending and serving fellow riders at Rhino Rally, the largest motorcycle gathering in South Africa; meeting the committed HCJB global staff in the mountainous metropolis of Quito.
“The sabbatical was teaching, ministry and motorcycling. What a combination! So I was thoroughly blessed,” he said.
From Kenya to Quito
During his first months in Kenya at Daystar University, Kowalik developed awe for his Kenyan colleagues whose commitment to heartfelt study and intellection thrived in extremely limited resources. Witnessing such unyielding perseverance challenged his academic mind, as much as worshipping in South African biker churches and small villages broadened his view of Christian life.
“There are different ways to build the kingdom—not just the Northwestern way,” he said, “And we can partner with and support them.”
After teaching in Nairobi and ministering in Johannesburg, Kowalik made a pit stop back in the states and then left for South America in February to advise HCJB staff in Quito, Ecuador as they phased out one program and start a dual enrollment partnership between Northwestern and Alliance Academy, a K–12 international school.
“That was just a wonderful opportunity as well, to be part of the culture and to sit in the classes, meet the professors and engage with them,” he said, “They have been called into ministry.”
Back to Northwestern and ready to serve
As early spring approached in Quito, Kowalik was keeping a finger on the Northwestern pulse through e-mail so he knew faculty president elections were scheduled for May. Feeling refreshed after his sabbatical and encouraged by his colleagues, Kowalik decided to run for faculty president, asking God to unfold the “next chapter” in his life. When he won the election, Kowalik knew God had answered his prayer with this leadership role at home.
With Nairobi, Johannesburg and Quito in periphery, Kowalik is now focused on holistically supporting faculty life. He encourages healthy communication between faculty and administration, hoping to speak in the true voice of faculty needs and concerns.
“My goal is to listen and to ask good questions; to prompt people to speak their minds,” he said.
Vision for faculty thriving in ministry
After over 20 years and multiple roles—including administration—Kowalik’s diverse experience and familiarity with Northwestern are powerful tools in meek hands.
“I’m very hopeful that God is going to use us as faculty to have an impact on the lives of students, but also on each other’s lives,” said Kowalik, “We can only do that if we listen and we are mindful of what’s going on.”
Specifically, Kowalik is encouraging faculty and staff to engage in morning chapel, making student ministry a priority. He also wants to see an attitude of blessing emerge in the Northwestern community, eliminating competition and critical-spirited interactions, no matter how subtle.
Kowalik referenced Dean of Student Development Paul Bradley’s description of a new campus culture where students, faculty, staff and administration are actively blessing each other, the institution and other institutions near Northwestern.
“It’s the mindset of faculty and staff that needs to change, and it’s not that I’m going to change it, but God’s going to change it, soften hearts—because it’s a ministry opportunity,” he said.
Kowalik will be leading monthly faculty gatherings and listening in on administrative meetings this fall, beginning his two-year term.
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