Dr. Mohammad K. Najdawi: a world traveler and scholar



Justin Runquist

Most of us have read about the great topics of the 20th century. These include lessons about the Soviet Union’s communist rule in the 1970s, the evolution of the computer age and what the American Dream truly means.

Mohammad K. Najdawi not only learned about these matters, he has experienced them firsthand.

Since his birth in Jordan, he has journeyed far and wide. How far? Four different continents and 30 different countries, to be exact. He believes his international experiences have affected every aspect of his existence.

“I consider myself to be very fortunate in life,” Najdawi said. “But it was not easy. I grew up in one country and received my education in three others. It was a struggle, but I am grateful for that experience.”

Najdawi recalled some of the largest barriers of his life: the challenges that he said could only be overcome with a relentless passion. These challenges included departing from his impoverished, native land in pursuit of receiving a quality education. Another hurdle he overcame was not just passing the Graduate Record Exam with minimal English experience, but excelling at it in order to pursue his greatest dream: studying at The Wharton School in the United States. In his current position as Villanova’s College of Commerce & Finance Senior Associate Dean, his challenge is now making sure that students continue to receive the best education possible.

Throughout his teaching career, Najdawi has strived to express his appreciation of culture to his students, and based on his experiences he always has a lot to share. He grew up in a Muslim country. He witnessed communism while studying in the former Czechoslovakia. He learned about the history of capitalism while at the London School of Economics.

“The best thing about the classroom setting is the interaction of cultures and unique backgrounds,” Najdawi said. “So, I try to instill my experiences on students. I want to help them the way education has helped me.”

A traveling man

“I was always hungry to experience new and different cultures,” Najdawi said. “And I am still hungry to travel. I guess you could say I’ve spent nearly 40 years in different continents in the hope of creating myself.”

With Westernized study abroad programs typically in place today, it’s easy for most students to create themselves overseas. Najdawi, however, remembers much different, and much more adventurous experiences. For example, in an entirely Slovak speaking nation, he learned the Slovak language in just six months.

While living with Czech locals, he fell in love with the city of Prague. While studying within the communist system of education, he said “rigorous” only began to describe the academic demands. He said the software engineering curriculum at LSE was a stimulating experience when computers were only beginning to emerge as an “experiment” for the future.

An information technology guru

Even when computer systems was a young field in the 1970’s, Najdawi was genuinely fascinated by it. After receiving basic training for a year at NCR Corp., he realized he’d have to eventually move to the technologically-accelerated United States. By 1980, Najdawi enrolled in the world renowned Wharton School.

“Wharton was a tremendous change from London,” he said. “The pace of the instructors was very demanding, and I welcomed that. Wharton really trained me to be a scholar, to do thorough research and to be a humble teacher.”

Performing research in the rapidly growing IT field excited Najdawi. When he arrived at Villanova in 1985, he contributed to the university a vast background in the field. During his tenure as the department chair of C&F’s management department, he launched the first management information systems program, which shortly became the university’s fastest growing major. Currently, more than 150 C&F students major in MIS each year.

Today he continues integrating IT into C&F’s curriculum and classrooms.

“Students cannot learn about today’s digital age without a state-of-the-art IT infrastructure set in place,” Najdawi said. To achieve that goal, he launched C&F’s laptop initiative six years ago and started C&F’s Chief Information Officer Advisory Council three years ago. By bringing together 17 CIO’s of the top high-tech corporations in the tri-state area, Najdawi said it’s possible to continue improving the MIS curriculum and providing a strong strategic direction to position C&F to be the best among its peer schools.

A leader and a teacher

For inspiration, Najdawi looks to a quote that once hung from a wall in Wharton during his teaching assistant days: “It is shameful when a man who has the privilege of teaching forgets the duty to learn.”

That quote, he said, sums up his passion for teaching. “It is so important for students, and even professors such as myself, to remain lifelong learners and adaptive problem solvers after school,” Najdawi said. “My hope is for all Villanova students to become good people and contributing members to society.”

This vision inspires Najdawi to bring C&F’s Graduate Business Programs to the next level. As the office’s director, he constantly strives to provide curricula of strong quality, while at the same time working to create a national presence for these programs. During his tenure, the office started several innovative graduate programs, including an Executive MBA program, a Master’s of Accountancy and Consulting program, and an FTE MBA (Full-time Equivalent evening MBA) program.

“We’re always striving to bring Villanova to the next level,” Najdawi said. “Whether we’re improving faculty, supporting research or creating new MBA programs, we’re always better positioning C&F to be among the best of its brand.”

Najdawi’s latest challenge is maintaining graduate level enrollment during a difficult economic time. By launching new programs, such as the 24-month FTE MBA program next fall, Najdawi said the college can continue to forge ahead. His strategy is apparently working: the number of students enrolled has increased 5 percent since last year.

A family man

“The main passions of my life always come back to what’s truly important,” Najdawi said, “and that’s my family, my wife and my children.”

Professionally, computers and information technologies are important dimensions of his life. But for Najdawi’s personal life, the most important, religious part of his day comes at his family’s dinner table.

“It’s important to live productively and succeed at your profession,” Najdawi said. “But most important is the presence of family in your life. It is always more important than an investment such as research.”

“And there is a warmth of community here at Villanova that I value,” he said.

From Jordan to Villanova and every location in between, Najdawi said that after 52 years, he is proud to have lived the life he has always imagined possible.

If you have questions, comments or suggestions, email Justin at [email protected].