New executive director brings years of Army leadership skills to post
By Patrick Kurp
SPECIAL TO THE RICE NEWS
Kazimir “Kaz” Karwowski spent 20 years in the U.S. Army as an infantryman, including two deployments to Iraq and others to Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was awarded the Bronze Star, two Meritorious Service medals and seven Army Commendation medals, among other decorations.
Karwowski is confident he can handle his latest deployment as executive director of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL).
“The average age of the infantrymen I was leading was 23 or 24,” said Karwowski, who joined RCEL in July. “I like working with young people. I like their energy. Working with students isn’t that different from working with soldiers. You motivate them and give them direction and purpose.”
Karwowski came to Rice from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he served as an engineering leadership specialist with the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program, a post he took in July 2009 after leaving the military. Previously he served as a leadership instructor for the Army ROTC Program at MIT, operations sergeant of an 800-soldier infantry battalion in Iraq and sergeant of a 55-soldier infantry platoon, also in Iraq. In addition, Karwowski led soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Karwowski spent five years of his military career on college campuses. He was directly involved in the development and leadership instruction, advising, mentoring and coaching of emerging leaders and students. During his time with MIT’s Army ROTC program, he was responsible for the leadership development of students from MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Salem State, Gordon and Wellesley College. Before that, he helped organize the Northern Iraqi Regional Training Academy for developing junior Iraqi military officers.
At RCEL, Karwowski will oversee the implementation of a Certificate of Engineering Leadership, a four-year undergraduate program operating in a parallel track to a student’s major. When the program is completed, the certificate will be issued with the academic degree at commencement.
“It’s a form of experiential learning,” said Karwowski, who holds an ALM graduate degree in management from Harvard University. “They learn leadership theory in the classroom, and then they’ll apply those lessons during our leadership labs. This is a safe place to practice being a leader. They’ll experience internships, working in multidisciplinary settings and learn entrepreneurship.
“Undergraduates,” he said, “will be mentored by upperclassmen, graduate students and by engineers already working in industry. We’re teaching them the hard academics, but also life skills. We want our students to know about functioning in the real world of business and industry and what it means to become leaders in those settings. We want them to be better, more effective engineers by becoming better leaders.”