Professor Spotlight

Jason Messina, Writer

Every year Millikin gets a brand new wave of freshmen but this year Millikin didn’t just get new students, it also got a brand new dean of the Tabor School of Business, Dr. Naijba Benabess. Because she is new to the school, not many people know much about her.

Dean Benabess is from Rabat, Morocco. She was born on September 3rd and just recently turned 42. She is a Virgo. She is fluent in 4 languages, French, Arabic, German and English. She also knows some Spanish. She did her undergraduate work in Morocco, but she got her master’s degree in economics at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. After her masters, she went to teach math, economics, and finances to bilingual students. She taught at Tech de Monterey a school in Guadalajara, Mexico for a year.

She has been working at the school for two months, and the reason she picked Millikin aren’t too far away from some of the reasons the students pick Millikin.     “One of them is the size of Millikin. That was one of the things. I know how I work, and I think the size of the university matters to me. I know where I’m productive, and the size of Millikin was one of the factors that made me interested in it. The location of Millikin is perfect for a business school coming from Vermont, it is very hard to connect with business, the community and with other universities they are a long distance to get to them. Being here in Decatur Illinois and how it is centrally located is a great advantage to connect and network with the community and universities in the region. The people: when I came here and met with the people, I’m like I can see myself working with these people. They are friendly they are professionals, and this is the environment I want to be in.”

As the dean of the Tabor School of Business, she believes that the Dean is an ambassador who grows two communities. “The internal community and the external. Internal being the student and faculty at Millikin. Looking at the student development, faculty development and looking at the curriculum. The external community is being involved and connecting or building a bridge between the business community in the Decatur area and the school of business while also connecting with alumni to bring them to Tabor and make them engage in what we do. She’s only worked at the school for two months but according to her, the two months have been excellent. She loves working with the faculty and is constantly surprised by the commitment they have for the students. Working with the Provost and teaching a class that she loves so much.

Like any normal human being, Dr. Benabess has hobbies outside of school. She loves to cook and host. Although she didn’t start cooking until she was an adult. She enjoys making Mediterranean and more specifically Moroccan food. Even when she cooks American food, like burgers, she still gives it a little flare by adding Moroccan spices. She cooks and hosts just like her family did while she was young.  “I have a big family, and we always had family members once a week. Where there was family and always food. If you picked something off the table, it would be replaced. So I grew up with that environment, and so I started doing that, I invited colleagues, friends, neighbors, because I miss that type of family I had.”

Besides cooking, Dr. Benabess loves being involved in the community. Back in Vermont, she used to teach elementary students French after school. She is even coaching soccer for a local YMCA between the ages of five and four. They were going to close it because they didn’t have a coach so Dean Benabess said she would.“I love volunteering my time and my skills in any way I can to the community.”

Dr. Benabess has advice for students to be successful. “Visit your professor during office hours. They need to forge an intellectual relationship or connections with their professors as soon as plausible. Because these professors will challenge them and support them. The second advice is to get out of your comfort zone. College students need to take risks and take classes you’re not good at. Challenge the one area they have never explored. It’s the only way you can be successful, try putting yourself out there.”