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After nearly a decade of leading the NIU College of Business, Denise Schoenbachler has announced plans to return to her first love - teaching.
She will complete the 2015-16 academic year as dean before making the transition.
"I was evaluating serving a third term as dean, and I realized that the classroom is where my heart is. I am ready to get back there," says Schoenbachler. "It is the right thing for me personally and professionally, and the right thing for the college."
On the personal front, she says, the decision had much to do with the demands of the job. For the last nine years, a month hasn't passed that she wasn't on an airplane jetting off to meet with donors or conducting work for the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. It was fun and exciting, but grueling. Now she wants to devote her energy to new things, not the least of which is her first grandchild, Scarlett, who was born this summer.
Professionally speaking, she says she couldn't fathom staying away from the classroom for another four years.
"I got into this field to teach, and I loved every minute of it - I love the direct contact with student; the direct impact you can have," she says. "I love being around all of that youth, all of that energy and all of those aspirations." She also looks forward to throwing herself into research. "I'll get to read again – for hours at a time!" she says with relish.
While she is excited about what the change will mean for her personally, Schoenbachler is also excited to what it could mean for the college. She points out that the average business dean at an American university serves four years, and she has long since eclipsed that mark.
"I am a firm believer that you need new ideas and new blood. It's time to give someone else a chance to lead," Schoenbachler says.
When she hands over the keys, she will do so with pride.
"I feel great about the state of the college. Everything is in place for someone to come in with a new spark and new energy and do great things," she says.
The accomplishment that she is most proud of is the culture that she helped build within the college. "People in this college really care about each other, and the students feel a part of that. It's one of our greatest assets and one of my proudest legacies."
In addition to creating that climate, Schoenbachler also helped launch new programs in entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship; made the curriculum more global; encouraged innovative curriculum such as the nationally recognized ethics program; and contributed to one of the most successful eras of fundraising in the history of the college.
That is not to say that she doesn’t have things that she still wants to accomplish. She will spend the next 10 months wrapping up those projects and positioning the college for its next round of accreditation. During that time, the college will launch a national search for her replacement. Her final day on the job will be June 30, 2016.
She plans to take a sabbatical during which she will prepare for her new role as a teacher in the college’s internationally recognized professional sales program. It’s a subject she has never taught before, but one that she has learned much about over the last decade.
“As dean of the college you are always selling – whether it is recruiting students or new faculty; trying to close the deal on a major gift; or explaining the benefits of getting involved with the college, it’s all about selling.”
She will rejoin the faculty following her sabbatical, and she can hardly wait for that day to arrive.
“This is not a step back, or a step down,” she says. It is a step forward toward what it is that I want to do with the rest of my career, and that is to teach students at the Northern Illinois University College of Business.”