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The empathy evangelist

Anita Nowak, GrDip 99
July 4, 2022
By Richard Burnett, BA 88

Photo by: Allen McInnis

Anita Nowak is on a mission to help people recognize the transformative power of empathy — in their personal lives, in organizations, and in the world. Purposeful Empathy, a podcast and YouTube channel hosted by the Concordia alumna (and the title of her book as well), seeks to do just that through exchanges with inspirational guests from all walks of life.

In constant demand as a speaker, media commentator and advisor on impact philanthropy, Nowak, a lecturer at the Desautels Faculty of Management, has twice been named Professor of the Year by the McGill Management Undergraduate Society.

“My message is simple,” she says. “The world needs more empathy.”

Career milestone

“The moment that really shifted things for me in my career was delivering a TEDx talk called The Power of Empathy. Thanks to that talk, I started getting phone calls to speak to senior executives about the importance of empathic leadership and organizational culture.”

Career challenge

“It took me a long time to figure out that I’m not meant to work in a bureaucratic system. I’m too entrepreneurial by nature.”

Influential professor

“The late Scott Gardner [communications studies] asked every student in our seminar class to do a presentation about something we were passionate about related to media and communications. Years later, I realized the brilliance of his pedagogy. Our co-created learning was transformed by the motivation we brought to our presentations.”

Paying it forward

“I love mentoring students! I’m always happy to share my experiences with them, but I’m equally excited to hear their perspectives. The learning goes both ways.”

Career advice

“Once your basic needs are met, how do you become the best version of yourself? How do you achieve your full potential? Think of the first 10 or 15 years of your career as moving towards self-actualization to feel fully expressed. Then make the lion’s share of your career about self-transcendence and how you can be of service to others and society.”

Favourite pastime

“Travel. I’ve been to more than 65 countries and all the random encounters I’ve had with locals and fellow travellers have made me more hopeful about humanity.”

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