Habib Chamoun-Nicolas is an adjunct professor in the Sever Institute with more than 20 years of experience teaching negotiation and sales courses at business schools throughout the world.

His real passion, however, is teaching engineers.

“Having a PhD in chemical engineering and a postdoctoral degree, I feel at home at the Sever Institute,” Chamoun-Nicolas said. “Not only because my analytical and scientific background fits right in, but also because it’s a place where I can accomplish my life’s mission to share my talents with future generations of engineers."

Chamoun-Nicolas' own son, Antoine, is one of those future engineers. Antoine earned master's degrees in engineering management and in chemical engineering from the McKelvey School of Engineering in May 2021.

“I’m extremely happy with Antoine’s experience at WashU,” Chamoun-Nicolas said. “He not only became a more skillful and prepared individual, but also a more caring person.”  

Chamoun-Nicolas spoke about what makes Sever unique and what he hopes his students — including his son — learn from their academic experience.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at the Sever Institute?

I enjoy the diversity of the Sever Institute’s student culture as well as the intellectual level and caliber of my WashU students. Another thing I love is the Sever Institute’s leadership team and staff. Their vision and work ethic align with mine.

Your son was a student at WashU before you were an instructor. What was that experience like? Was it a coincidence that you both connected with WashU?

Yes! In fact, it was a great God-incidence. I learned about WashU’s reputation and the Sever Institute management program from my son, Antoine.

“Dad, this is a win-win situation,” he said. “You’ll enjoy teaching your cross-cultural negotiation and sales courses at WashU, and the students will enjoy taking them.” He introduced me to Peggy Kepuraitis Matson [program director of graduate studies in engineering management and of project management] and the rest is history. I’m very proud to work for her and the whole Sever Institute team.

What do you hope he learned from his experience at WashU?

Personally, I expect Antoine to be a caring leader wherever he goes. WashU has equipped him well for his next move, and I’m happy he’s been accepted to pursue a PhD in chemical engineering at my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin.

My wife, Marcela, and I are also very thankful to WashU for all the support that was offered to students during the pandemic. Antoine tested positive for COVID-19 and was by himself in St. Louis. We were in Texas and it wasn’t safe for us to travel to him. The university response team called him every day to offer assistance. You can tell WashU is there for its students.

How did you adapt to the changes caused by COVID?

I was supposed to teach a mixed-mode course at WashU when the pandemic hit. I had to learn new things in Canvas and how to shift my in-person cross-cultural negotiation course to an online asynchronous and synchronous course in less than two weeks.

This was a great challenge that made me a better online instructor. Peggy and the Sever staff’s continual support in making sure my course was a success was greatly appreciated. The support from Jason Crandall [director of learning design and innovation] and his team was fantastic.

What advice do you have for people considering attending Sever?

Students attending Sever should expect to have cross-cultural experiences in their courses. You’ll learn not only from the faculty and friendly staff, but also from the diversity and intellectual curiosity of your classmates.

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