My reading life: Wendy Angst

Author: Christine Cox

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Books fed the adventurous spirit of Wendy Angst as a child growing up in the one-stoplight town of Imlay City, Michigan. “I always loved getting taken away to places through the stories that I read,” she says.

That adventurous spirit never waned. Angst’s openness to opportunities, love of the ambiguous, and interest in the early stage led her on an international career path from therapist at a veterans affairs hospital, strategist for hospitals in the U.S. and Australia, CEO of one of the earliest companies to promote electronic personal health records, and, now, associate teaching professor of management at the Mendoza College of Business.

This seems a significant departure from her original goal of becoming a physical therapist, especially her immersion into the business world. “I love solving problems, especially problems that can have a direct impact on helping others.  I was able to combine my love of health care with business and for more than 11 years had the incredible experience of helping build every aspect of a company,” she says. “I knew early on that I couldn’t be in a business role where I was making a widget for a profit. It had to be more about something bigger.”

Of course, that makes her a perfect fit for Mendoza, where she started in 2010. Angst teaches Social Media Strategy Analytics to MBA students and undergraduates, and Business Problem Solving and Innovation and Design to undergraduates. “If you have a mission and vision of business giving back to society, you couldn’t pick a better place to be,” she says.

And just as she’s maintained her passion for new experiences, Angst has maintained her love for reading, as she explains in this Q&A.

You and your husband (associate IT management professor Corey Angst) have three young children. How do you make time for reading?

The schedule that works best for me is reading with the kids before their 8 o’clock bedtime. I am usually asleep not long after, by 9:30 or so. And then I usually wake at 4 to enjoy some quiet time to catch up on work and reading. As soon as summer hits, I usually read two books a week.

What are you reading now and what have you read recently?

Right now I’m reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I’m really enjoying it. It weaves the story of a young woman passionate for reading during the Holocaust. It’s one of those fictional books that brings history alive and helps one empathize with those who are living through uncertain and difficult times in other parts of the world and who do not have the same freedoms that we enjoy. 

This summer I read The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. I read that because my husband and I were in Australia with Notre Dame for the fall semester last year, and I met some really wonderful friends. And we decided one way to keep in touch despite the fact that we’re all over the world is through an international book club. So this was our first book. We all had these different perspectives and backgrounds — one woman is from England and the other two are Australian and then me. So we dialogued about this book remotely and had great conversations to connect us across the miles.

While we were in the camper van in New Zealand on our way back from Australia, I read Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties by Rachel Cooke. It talked about how women in the 1950s had so many fewer opportunities to recognize their potential and follow their dreams. And, yet, these women were able to accomplish amazing things in their own right in all different fields and in different ways of being measured.

What do you like to read in general?

I love reading business books — especially books in the design thinking field that underscore the importance of customer-centered strategies. Especially during the semester, I try to keep up with trends and what’s happening in business and the news that’s coming out so I can relate it back to class. This summer I read Creative Intelligence by Bruce Nussbaum; Change by Design by Tim Brown; Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley; The Innovator’s Toolkit by David Silverstein, Philip Samuel, and Neil DeCarlo; Ten Types of Innovation by Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel, and Brian Quinn.  I am currently reading The Innovation Expedition by Gijs van Wulfen.

What is your favorite book?

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon. I love the message and the focus. Clayton Christensen is hailed by The Washington Post as the “world’s most influential management thinker,” and yet has authored this amazing book about keeping sight of what really matters in life — not power, money, and accolades, but keeping your values front and center and focusing on the lasting value that you bring to this world, your family, and the people in your life. This book really speaks to the fact that you can be very successful in your career and business without sacrificing your values. This is in perfect alignment with Notre Dame and our mission here at Mendoza on value-based leadership in all facets of our lives.