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Apr 7, 2022

Who Says It’s Too Late to Change Careers? At 44, Tom Janicki Started The Path to His Doctorate and Becoming a Professor

Sponsored Content provided by Robert Burrus - Dean , Cameron School of Business - UNC-Wilmington

This piece was contributed by Sarah Fetters, Director of Communications, UNCW Division of University Advancement. 

With more than 20 years as an educator on UNCW’s campus and the Cameron School of Business (CSB), Janicki has helped countless students secure networking opportunities, internships and jobs while contributing to Wilmington’s thriving technology community.
In this Hawk's Eye View, the professor recently shared his thoughts on UNCW, student success, studying abroad and more.

What made you get into teaching?

I worked seven years for a Fortune 500 company, had my own retail stores and a management training firm, which had similarities to teaching.

While I had the management training firm, a friend of mine was desperate for someone to teach some night courses at Robert Morris University. I started teaching and loved it. My friend said, ‘You know you've got the skill to do this. If you really like it, go and get your Ph.D.’

I really liked teaching, so at the age of 44, I went back and started on my Ph.D.

How does your career prior to teaching help you in the classroom?

I still have friends who work in the industry. Knowing how the industry uses both information and technology to be more productive, lets me bring that into the classroom. It provides a little bit more real-world perspective. That's why I’m the coordinator of the UNCW Information Systems Advisory Board, which helps maintain my contact with the business world.

What brought you to UNCW?

When I graduated, I either wanted to stay in the Pittsburgh area, which is home, or I wanted to move along the coast. I had offers from three coastal schools and I picked UNCW over the West Coast.

What has made UNCW a place you have wanted to stay for so long?

I've always thought UNCW respects individuality. When I said, ‘I think we need an advisory board', the department chair let me go and do it, even though I had only been here two or three years at that point.

When younger faculty came up with ideas, we always received positive responses. It was never, ‘We might consider it.’ But always, ‘Let's give this a try.’

I've always felt that level of support and have been able to provide much more service because of it. I love dealing with the community. I love running events. UNCW gave me that option, versus focusing strictly on research or limiting my time to provide service activities in other ways.

How have UNCW and CSB changed during your time on campus?

They have both grown so much. When I first got here, UNCW was clearly a regional school. I believe we're still a regional school, but our reputation now is more than just Southeast North Carolina. That's the biggest change — the reputation of UNCW has grown significantly. 

We are constantly evolving with new majors or minors. Our newest major, Cybersecurity, wasn’t there before, but it's growing and is now certified by the National Security Agency and FBI.
You were the Progress Energy/Gordon Hurlbert Distinguished Professor of Management Information Systems at UNCW. What did that distinguished professorship opportunity mean to you?

The distinguished professorship has allowed me to provide services, like building events for students such as the Technology & Analytics Career Day that has become very successful. Most of my work is related to helping students get jobs. On average, 70 percent of our Information Systems (IS) graduates earn a paid internship in the field before they graduate.

I had two five-year terms as a distinguished professor. My current goal is transitioning into another role to help other faculty and staff to manage the IS advisory board, career day, Wilmington IT Exchange and Conference (WITX), etc.

You have established a scholarship for CSB students. Why?

The Thomas N. Janicki Scholarship in Leadership and Service is used to assist CSB students who have demonstrated a strong sense of commitment to service, leadership and volunteerism. I set this scholarship up when I first became an endowed professor, to pay it forward. It now awards scholarships every year.
You have been instrumental in study abroad programs within CSB. What is your role in that outreach?

I am the German liaison for CSB, which means three things. One is that I recruit students from Germany to come here as part of the TransAtlantic Business School Alliance (TABSA). Second is I'm their advisor, helping them with scheduling and graduating. Finally, I lead a group of students to Germany each summer for a month.

"Having students in your class from different parts of the world adds to everybody in the room. Their perspective is so different. It really is an advantage to our students."
— Tom Janicki


What is the key takeaway from your study abroad trips?

Taking a group of students to Europe every summer and seeing their perspectives, and mine, on the world change, is wonderful.  
Bremen [Hochschule Bremen University of Applied Sciences] is a school that has students from 25 different countries study there in the summer – wow! It's not just us or just German students, you're also meeting people from places like Morocco, Peru, China, India or Russia. Previously I taught a class there with people from seven different countries. Everybody's gaining new perspectives. 

An example of changing your perspective is during our last trip two summers ago, our students played soccer. The North African and European teams were kicking our team’s butt so students from Europe and North Africa split their teams. That very next day in the classroom, after playing soccer together, their whole perspective changed. All of a sudden, we were friends with people from all over the world.  

The more students who can go international, and the more international students we can get to come here, the world is better.  

What’s one thing you wish all incoming freshmen knew upon arriving at UNCW?

Oh, I have two. The first is how important it is to study abroad and to expose yourself to that. The second is the importance of technology, no matter your major.

Robert T. Burrus, Jr., Ph.D., is the dean of the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, named in June 2015. Burrus joined the UNCW faculty in 1998. Prior to his current position, Burrus was interim dean, associate dean of undergraduate studies and the chair of the department of economics and finance. Burrus earned a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics from Wake Forest University. The Cameron School of Business has approximately 90 full-time faculty members and 30 administrative and staff members. The AACSB-accredited business school currently enrolls approximately 2,600 undergraduate students in three degree programs and 750 graduate students in four degree programs. The school also houses the prestigious Cameron Executive Network, a group of more than 200 retired and practicing executives that provide one-on-one mentoring for Cameron students. To learn more about the Cameron School of Business, please visit Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected].

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