President Mazachek shares knowledge on being a successful leader


Mogli Prout - Benoit

JuliAnn Mazachek, president of Washburn University, models with a cheese pizza. Mazachek shared not only pizza that night, but also nuggets of knowledge on how to be a successful leader.

On Tuesday, March 28, President of Washburn University, JuliAnn Mazachek, was invited to an event held by Washburn’s Leadership Institute titled “Pizza with the President.”

Mazachek gave a short monologue on her rise from educator to the president of the university, and the many stops along the way.

Madeline Lambing, associate director of the Leadership Institute, was excited for Mazachek’s attendance and what it could provide for students.

“We asked her to share her story so the students could learn some life lessons and gain some nuggets of wisdom that they can take with them to think back on,” Lambing said. “Who better to get them from than the president of the university?”

There were two major points in Mazachek’s speech, which she summarized with two powerful quotes.

“The only way you can get anything done is with the right people,” Mazachek said. “No matter how good you are, it doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t believe in you.”

Even before becoming the president, Mazachek understood the importance of having the right people in her circle. From good acquaintances, to respectable mentors and even people she didn’t get along with, her rise to the top depended heavily on those she involved herself with.

Having mentors who she drew wisdom from, she told the group that, “no matter how good you are it doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t believe in you.”

This is reflected in her first big promotion at Washburn, where after her tenure, she was encouraged to apply for the position as the new Dean of the School of Business by the former dean, who she built great rapport with.

Learning from those she disagreed with was another way for Mazachek to learn. Sometimes she learned who NOT to imitate from, poor leaders that she had and from people she didn’t want to become. On the other hand, she told the group that conversing with and disagreeing with smart people makes you learn from them. As a leader, Mazachek believes it’s very important to have an open mind and to understand that there are many viewpoints to look from when making any decision.

Ultimately, treating those with respect and kindness no matter who they were or what position they held put her on the good side of many. As president of the Alumni Association, Mazachek learned that her good reputation preceded her. She met parents of numerous past students who all had great things to say about their time in her classes.

The second main lesson she imparted was summarized with a question.

“How do you want to be known?”

Many of the stories and experiences that Mazachek shared from her life shows that she meant it when she told the group that she values integrity above all else.

“I think one of the things that resonated with many of our students tonight was knowing your values and what’s important to you. Which is something that we go over in our intro to leadership course,” Lambing said. “Who are you and what kind of leader do you want to be in the future? That’s a tangible lesson that you can use anywhere.”

Being known as a hard worker and as a “doer” is what led to much of Mazachek’s professional success. The previous president, Jerry Farley, had a running joke, “If no one wants to do it, Julie will!” A statement that Mazachek takes pride in still.

Hard work and a “can-do” attitude are the president’s favorite tools. She brought up how the difficulties that arose during covid actually energized her to keep working hard.

The fact that JuliAnn Mazachek is the first female president of the university slips her mind constantly. For the entirety of her scholarly life, she was one of very few females. She was used to being in a field dominated by men, but she never let that stop her. Mazachek strived not to be considered “decent for a woman,” but great in all aspects of her work.

As a collaborative leader she finds that the most important thing she does is setting a vision for the university. Mazachek likes to bring ideas together to help innovate the community, she loves forward movement and hates having “grass grow under her feet.”
She made it clear that she means to get stuff done. The most exciting thing to Mazachek about being president is getting to make decisions.

“I’m the person that says we should do this and this is why we should do this. I have other people on the team who say no to things, that’s not for me,” Mazachek said.

Making decisions isn’t only about saying yes to proposals or making plans, Mazachek has to make sure that she has the right reasons for them as well. As a leader, explaining why you do things is inevitable, so making sure it’s the right thing is important.

Andrew Manell, a senior in business, found “Pizza with the President” very inspiring. Manell is a photographer and social media coordinator for the Leadership Institute.

“We got to learn more about our new president, and found out about her background. I saw how different she was from our last president, Farley, as well as what brought them together,” Manell said. “She seems to have a fresh take on things, I expect she’ll do a lot for the university in the future.”

The chance to learn directly from the university’s president was very enriching. The food for thought was just as fulfilling as the pizza was.


Edited By Glorianna Noland and LeSha’ Davis