“My book is an invitation for people to turn up the dial on empathy in their lives,” she says. “The world needs it to flourish. We actually feel better when we are in an empathic embrace.”
Purposeful Empathy, which took more than a decade to complete, involved extensive research and numerous interviews with everyone from non-profit social entrepreneurs to successful startup founders.
“With every single person I spoke to, it all came down to empathy,” says Nowak. “They all felt a need to act on the empathy they felt for people who were marginalized, disenfranchised or oppressed in some way. And I was really moved by that. So for the last 10 years, I have been in love with understanding empathy and studying how it can be leveraged for change.”
Nowak’s expertise is in constant demand as a speaker, media commentator and advisor on impact philanthropy. As a lecturer at McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management, she has twice been named Professor of the Year by the McGill Management Undergraduate Society. In 2022 she was named one of Concordia’s Top 50 Under 50.
Nowak says that her undergraduate experience at the university — and especially the wisdom of Scot Gardner, a Department of Communication Studies professor who passed away in 2011 — profoundly influenced her career.
“There was an openness at Concordia that helped change the way I teach,” she says.
Those lessons have never been more important as the alumna prepares to launch her book into world on April 11.
“In the face of climate change, massive wealth and income inequality, and a mental-health crisis in a society governed by materialism, what can we do?” Nowak asks.
“How can we change these big systems? I think the idea of looking at purposeful empathy as a marathon is useful. Where can we find daily opportunities to be a little more empathic, and then resolve to do a bit better tomorrow? I think if everybody takes that on as their personal responsibility, then we can redress some of these major issues.”