Najiba Benabess Shares Her Inspirational Journey in Pioneering Contemporary Education With Compassion

Early sparks of enthusiasm ignited during childhood often develop into significant missions and enduring commitments. For Najiba Benabess, a passion for education discovered in her youth and the sense of peace that comes from being in a classroom evolved into a career that she embraced wholeheartedly, deeply, and unwaveringly.  

Raised in Morocco, a diverse and multilingual environment, Najiba recognized the strength of collaboration, synergy, and diversity at an early age. Her mother, a single parent and minority advocate, instilled in Najiba the value of education, ensuring her children received a quality education that prepared them for professional success. Currently serving as a seasoned Dean and educational administrator, Najiba is committed to sharing knowledge and guiding young adults in their life journeys. 

Najiba’s teaching career began during her doctoral studies when she worked as a substitute teacher in various schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This experience laid the foundation for her future endeavors and led her to focus on higher education rather than traditional K-12 systems. “I find fulfillment in teaching at the university level,” Najiba states. “Students are adults who are eager to learn, making it a collaborative effort that influences their career paths and inspiration. I am grateful to be a part of their growth.” 

In 2007, Najiba earned her academic credentials and joined a prestigious private military university in the U.S. as an Assistant Professor. Reflecting on that time, Najiba acknowledges the challenges she faced as the only female, the least experienced member, and a person from a multicultural background. These hurdles taught her the art of adaptation and resilience. 

Najiba emphasizes the importance of adapting and amplifying one’s voice in environments that may try to silence it. “Women and minorities often need to strategize to be heard, which is unfortunate but true. Once you learn to assert yourself in such settings, you become capable of achieving anything,” she asserts. 

After seven years, Najiba was promoted to the Director of the School of Business and Management, signifying a new chapter in her career focused on collaboration and faculty empowerment. The transition highlighted her determination and signaled a shift towards a broader vision that encompassed overall success. 

With this change, the faculty members who once mentored Najiba now reported to her as their director. Initially challenging to evaluate them, especially considering cultural differences, Najiba grew in confidence and now imparts the lesson to her students that recognizing one’s strengths may require an external perspective. Supporting students to enter the workforce and empowering faculty to engage in research and knowledge creation for the community and businesses is Najiba’s greatest satisfaction.  

“My colleagues saw strengths in me that I didn’t recognize in myself. What I perceived as natural behavior, they valued as a significant asset – my ability to lead, listen, and leave a positive impact,” Najiba shares. “As a compassionate individual, offering empathy is innate to me, but not everyone possesses that trait.” 

In 2016, Najiba embarked on a new educational journey as the Dean of the Tabor School of Business at Millikin University. Overcoming leadership challenges faced by educational administrators, Najiba dedicated herself to enhancing the student experience. 

As a middle management role bridging educational ideals with student requirements, Deans must find a balance that aligns with the institutional vision. Adapting to the evolving education landscape, especially in business schools with an entrepreneurial focus, presents challenges in integrating traditional guidelines with modern systems. 

“Teaching has always been my passion, and the prospect of influencing students in a classroom environment spurred my development. While I never envisioned working in higher education administration, I am grateful for where my journey has taken me,” Najiba reflects. “Despite the challenges, being part of the educational transformation is immensely rewarding, and I consider it a privilege to be an educator.” 

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