Jukić named Faculty Member of the Year
By Drew Sottardi | Senior writer
Quinlan School of Business Professor Nenad Jukić wasn’t sure what to expect when he took his first programming class as a high school student in Croatia.
“I thought computer programming was this strange and mysterious thing,” he said. “I remember I took my first test and got a B+, which I couldn’t believe. I really thought I was going to get an F.”
His teacher, however, was less than impressed.
“He told me: ‘You’re not a B+ student. You can do better than this,’ ” Jukić said. “It gave me such motivation that someone believed in me—and that’s what I try to do with my students.”
It’s clearly an approach that’s working.
Jukić (pronounced You-kich) was named Loyola’s Faculty Member of the Year on September 14 as part of the University’s Eighth Annual Faculty Convocation. This latest award caps off a string of impressive accolades for Jukić, who also was named Quinlan’s Outstanding Undergraduate Teacher of the Year for 2014 and has twice been recognized as the business school’s top researcher.
“It’s very humbling to win,” Jukić said. “But like all of my colleagues here, I don’t teach to win awards. I teach to help students learn and succeed in life.”
Jukić, who joined the Loyola faculty in 1999, said the students at the University make his job easy.
“At Loyola, you sit on top of a diamond mine,” he said. “If you just scratch under the surface, you will not believe the talent, enthusiasm, and dedication of our students. I simply mine that talent.”
Creating data detectives
As a professor of information systems and database management, Jukić teaches students how to make sense of all the data that businesses collect. And there’s plenty of data to dig through.
Every online purchase, credit card transaction, or “like” that people post to Facebook becomes part of a massive data set that businesses examine to find trends to improve their operations, Jukić said. If a grocery store, for instance, can discern a pattern—say, milk sales spike on days when a coupon is sent out for a loaf of bread—and if the store can get that coupon into the right hands at the right time, profits should increase.
“Every large retailer does this,” Jukić said. “The only ones that don’t are the ones that are out of business.”
Jukić teaches several graduate and undergraduate classes at Quinlan, but he makes it a point to teach at least one course every semester for first-year students.
“I always teach a freshman class,” he said, “because I love meeting new students and telling them about all of the opportunities they’ll have with an information systems degree.”
The numbers back him up.
In the Class of 2014, Jukić said, more than 90 percent of the information systems majors at Quinlan had a job before they graduated or within three months after graduation—and most of them landed at Fortune 500 companies or large consulting firms.
“Very few people go to college to study information systems, so we have to reach out to freshmen,” he said. “Once they see the job opportunities, we get plenty of people into the program.”
Right where he belongs
Jukić, who studied computer science and electrical engineering as an undergraduate at the University of Zagreb, went on to receive his master’s degree and PhD from the University of Alabama.
And how did someone who grew up playing soccer in Croatia like living in a state that eats, sleeps, and breathes college football?
“I didn’t know what football was when I came to the United States,” he said. “But they must put something in the water down there. After two months, I was a rabid fan.”
Living in the South, however, did more than teach Jukić how to yell “Roll Tide!” It also taught him what life can be like at an American university.
“College in Croatia is very different from college here,” he said. “It’s work, work, work—all the time. In the States, of course students work, but they also get a chance to live and learn outside the classroom.
“Once I got a taste of that, I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life teaching,” Jukić said. “I belong here at Loyola. It’s honestly one of the best jobs a person could have.”
About the professor
Hometown: Grew up in Zagreb, Croatia; now lives in Glen Ellyn with his wife and three children
Professor at Loyola since: 1999
Courses now teaching: Business Information Systems (INFS 247); Database and Data Warehousing Systems (INFS 346); Health Care Information Systems (HCMT 510)
Fun fact: Jukić has an identical twin, Boris, who is also a college professor —and they both teach information systems. “We did everything together growing up,” Jukić said, “and I even do some research with him now. His kids and my kids are very close.”