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Alumni Perspective: Frederic Widlak (PSYC '66)

Promoting Private Enterprise in Post-Communist Europe

With the fall of Communism in Eastern and Central Europe in 1989, government leaders in Poland looked to the West for help with the development of free enterprise. It was vital to the success of business enterprises that a cadre of managers would be educated in market-economy theory and practices.

Fred Widlak, Ph.D.In 1992, I led a delegation of faculty members from National Louis University (NLU), based in Chicago, to help establish the Wyższa Szkoła Biznesu (Higher School of Business) in Nowy Sącz, located about 60 miles southeast of Krakow in the foothills of the Tatra Mountains. My title was pro-rector (vice president) of academic affairs, and as such, I was the first United States citizen to become the chief academic officer of a collegiate institution in Poland. We taught courses alongside Polish, Ukrainian, German, Swedish, British, Irish, Canadian, and other American faculty members to offer the transplanted NLU bachelor’s degree program in Business Administration to 150 students from across Poland.

Since our modest beginnings 25 years ago in rented space formerly occupied by the ZOMO paramilitary police during the imposition of martial law in the early 1980’s, the campus has expanded to eight buildings and increased its offerings to include bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in management, computer science, and political science taught in English, Polish, and Russian. WSB-NLU has attracted students from almost every country in Europe, Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, India, Nepal, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Columbia, and Ecuador, as well as Canada and the USA to place over 10,000 alumni all over the world.

Besides my primary work in Poland, I have taught, consulted, and observed enterprises in England, Germany, Sweden, Ukraine, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. In 2004, I founded "Encouraging Enterprise," based in Krakow, an organization that conducts market research, trains managers, and publishes articles and reports aimed at promoting economic progress in Poland. My research interests include the formation of managers’ personal and social identity; managers’ risk-taking and decision-making; conflict resolution in business; behavioral finance; and the development of human capital in Poland and Ukraine. It has been an enriching experience to teach and learn from students and colleagues from a wide variety of cultures. I wish more Americans had this opportunity.

Fred Widlak, Ph.D.
(Psychology '66)