Chuck Howlett

Instructor and Director of Professional Sales Program, Department of Marketing

Chuck Howlett

What year did you start working at NIU?
2014

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
My hometown is Kanawha, Iowa, and I live in Geneva, Illinois.

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I have a B.S. in agricultural business from Iowa State University and an executive MBA from Northern Illinois University.

In which department(s) do you teach?
Department of Marketing

What do you like about working at NIU?
Students and their endless enthusiasm along with the opportunity to interact with industry professionals to match student skills with sales jobs. After 33 years in sales and sales management, partnering with students seeking meaningful careers and wanting to learn how to solve customers' problems has been an amazing second career for me. 

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Many students have worked very hard for the opportunity for a college education and are multitasking with jobs and family to complete this goal. My advice is to look beyond the classroom to engage in student organizations, collegiate sales competitions and even networking with other sales-minded students and faculty. You are building your own "executive committee" today for future collaboration and career success. 

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
As director of the NIU Professional Sales Center, I lead the Sales Advisory Board, which consists of sales representatives, managers and recruiters from 30 corporations seeking to hire Huskies. We meet twice a year to review achievements, highlight student accomplishments and strategize on what is working and missing in our sales graduates. This collaboration continues to push our sales faculty to provide a teaching environment that reflects what's current in sales analytics and enablement, sales technology and management. These board meetings are followed by engagement from industry in the classroom. In the 2020-21 school year, we had over 300 industry professionals invest time and resources into our sales education to keep NIU in the top tier of sales programs in the country.

What do you hope students take away from your class?
My goal is to expose students to the sales process and then apply skills in a "real-world" environment. My class is modeled after my industry experience with sales meetings where you learn the product/process and then practice with new buyers. This requires preparation, listening and responding intelligently to objections. That said, the main takeaway I really want for the class is self-confidence.

What is your favorite campus event?
My favorite events on campus are around student participation. Whether it's a networking event at Fatty's to demonstrate professional etiquette or just being "caught in the moment" watching sales students lead their teams in gymnastics, baseball, football, soccer or volleyball, my highlights are the interactions with the Huskie nation!

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
I cherish the memories of a class I developed known as Sales on Wheels. Twenty-four students joined me on a Huskie bus during the winter intersession to travel 1,000 miles to Indianapolis and St. Louis. We toured the corporate headquarters of several program sponsors and experienced culture. This was a "game-changing" experience that transitioned students into careers. The trip was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 with hopes of having the bus rolling again in 2022. 

Who has influenced your professional path?
Mentors, career experiences and my wife of 40 years! Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans. I've committed myself to doing the work, connecting with and respecting the people I work with every day, and being inquisitive for opportunities.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
Doing it. College keeps me young, and the chance to coach and learn does not get old!

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am the advisor of Pi Sigma Epsilon (PSE), a national marketing and sales fraternity. The organization provides hundreds of opportunities to network with students across the nation; compete in speaking and sales competitions; and work on self-development skills to enhance resumes, elevator pitches and interviewing skills.

What community organizations are you involved in?
I volunteer at the Geneva History Museum (Geneva, Illinois). I strongly believe we learn from the past to make a meaningful impact in the future. I also am a member of the Geneva United Methodist Church.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
Competition relaxes me, on the racquetball or pickleball courts. To complement that, I'm taking dancing lessons with my wife to wow the crowd at our 40th wedding celebration!

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
Huskies have #grit and push them to #NIURepresent!

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