Concordia University Chicago announced today that Dr. Jamie A. Kowalczyk will begin serving as Vice President of Strategy & Innovation and Chief of Staff, and Dr. Eli V. Hestermann has been named as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer. Both individuals bring significant experience to their respective positions, earned here at Concordia-Chicago as well as at other higher education institutions.
The announcement follows the University’s Board of Regents’ confirmation of the unanimous recommendation of the search committee and President Russell Dawn. The appointments become effective on Thursday, May 18.
“I am pleased to be able support the advancement of two talented individuals within our organization,” says President Dawn. “Dr. Kowalczyk possesses exceptional drive and creativity, as well as the ability to build strong coalitions across the organization. Dr. Hestermann is highly gifted at program development, academic administration, and finding solutions that support the needs of faculty and the University. Both of them have earned my respect and that of their colleagues. Pairing their strengths is yet another way that CUC is positioned for a thriving future.”
The University will also institute related changes to its administrative structure. First, CUC’s strategy and innovation functions will be operationalized within the Office of the President. Dr. Kowalczyk will report to President Dawn and her existing administrative team will transition with her. Those individuals include Dr. Kathryn Wozniak as Associate Vice President for Strategy & Innovation, Dr. Chad Kendall as Assistant Vice President for Mission & Identity, and Diana DeMarco as Assistant Vice President for Institutional Planning & Effectiveness.
The current Provost’s Office will become the Office of Academic Affairs, with Dr. Hestermann also reporting to the president. He will be supported by Dr. Peggy Snowden, who will move into the role of Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs. The academic deans and the Office of the Registrar will also sit within this revised academic structure.
In her new role, Dr. Kowalczyk will act as the chief administrative extension of the Office of the President, where she will be responsible for the day-to-day functions of the University while also overseeing and promoting the University’s development of innovative programs. “I am honored to further serve Concordia-Chicago in this new capacity,” says Dr. Kowalczyk. “I will focus my work on our already robust strategic initiatives to ensure we are able to fully support past, current, and future students in their vocations. Furthermore, I aim to position CUC to be more competitive by improving institutional processes, exploring operational innovations where needed, and developing inter-departmental collaboration to strengthen our organization.”
Dr. Kowalczyk has an extensive background as an educator and academic leader. An eight-year veteran of CUC, she has served as associate professor in curriculum and instruction and as assistant provost of academics. Since January 2023, she has also served as interim provost overseeing the University’s academic operations. In these roles, she has supported new program development, launched the University Policy, Curriculum, & Assessment Committee, acted as the CUC academic liaison officer for the Higher Learning Commission, and created opportunities for faculty and staff collaboration. Dr. Kowalczyk earned a BA at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an MAT at the University of Chicago, and a PhD in curriculum theory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to joining the CUC community, she worked with the Italian Ministry of Education – International Affairs and taught as a lecturer at “Angelicum,” the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy. She and her husband Pierpaolo De Caro are residents of Oak Park, IL.
As the Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Hestermann will be responsible for guiding all academic programs as well as oversight of all academic resources, ensuring the delivery of high-quality programs and learning experiences. “Concordia University Chicago continues to be a leader in providing an unapologetically Lutheran education. I am honored to have been selected for this important position and look forward to the further development of academic programs and resources that prepare our students for the many vocations to which they’re called,” says Dr. Hestermann.
Dr. Hestermann is founding dean of CUC’s College of Health, Science & Technology (2021) and is also a professor of biology. Previously, he was a member of the biology faculty at Furman University where he was integral to the creation of the interdisciplinary Institute for the Advancement of Community Health. He holds a BS in biology from Purdue University, a PhD in biological oceanography from MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and conducted his post-doctoral research at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Hestermann is a lifelong member of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, resides in Wheaton, IL, and has been married to his wife Danielle since 1994. They are the proud parents of high school junior Alexander.