Mentor Sparked Passion In Mike Chihoski, '96, M.S. '08, Newest NIUAA Board Member
By Tony Scott
Mike Chihoski, ’96, M.S. ’08, feels he will bring a unique perspective as he joins the NIU Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Chihoski currently serves as senior associate vice president, University Facilities and Services, at the University of Rochester. He also serves on the leadership team and the President's Cabinet for the University of Rochester, which is one of the top research universities in the country and consistently ranked as one of the top overall universities in the U.S.
Chihoski, who was born in raised in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Ill., the second of four children, was recruited to the wrestling team at NIU. His older brother Phillip, ’90, also wrestled for the Huskies.
When he entered NIU, he was an undecided major. But following a summer job that inspired him, he began to take classes with Dr. Earl Hansen, who became a mentor and impacted his life.
“It was just per chance, I took a summer job that seemed interesting to me, and I learned more about the field and what I would have to do,” he said. “I went back to NIU and asked, do you have a degree in this area, and they did, which was industrial technology with an emphasis on safety through the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. And that’s when I started to take classes with Dr. Hansen as an undergrad and really built a bond and a relationship with him that lasted for many years well after graduation.”
While at NIU, Chihoski first lived in Douglas Hall, which was torn down in 2015, and later served as a Founding Father of NIU’s Delta Chi chapter in his junior year.
“That was a great experience, to be a founding father,” he said.
Chihoski said he has fond memories of taking road trips to see the football Huskies play, tailgating, and bartending at Molly’s to make ends meet.
“I was and still am an avid follower of NIU Football,” he said.
Hansen, who retired in 2012 after 32 years at NIU, was a unique professor and Chihoski said he enjoyed taking his classes.
“NIU is a relatively large school; he made it seem like a small school,” he said. “He made you seem like an individual, not a number.”
Chihoski said he reached out to Hansen for career advice and when he was looking at going to graduate school.
“When I decided to go back to grad school, he was the first one I called,” he said. “NIU was a natural choice for me, and really created a flexible program around my work schedule and my travel schedule to allow me to pursue a graduate degree.”
Following his time at NIU, Chihoski had a career that took him all over the country and the world. Before joining the University of Rochester, he served as COO for Emaar, the Economic City, a public Saudi joint-stock company. While serving this role, Chihoski was in charge of the development of the largest private project in the world, estimated at $100 billion value.
Chihoski has served on more than a dozen professional boards in his career. At NIU, Chihoski has previously served on a number of committees and the Board of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. He has also been a supporter of NIU Athletics, and he and his wife have endowed a scholarship in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology in honor of Dr. Hansen.
Chihoski said his experiences will help him be a great board member.
“I feel I have a unique perspective in my current role working at a prestigious research university in senior leadership to help share best practices that I see in my day-to-day job,” he said. “In my role at the University of Rochester I serve on the President’s Cabinet and am involved with the strategic planning initiatives of the University. I hope to be able to share my experience with the other board members and to be able to provide a different point of view.”