Nicki Anderson, on following her heart & knowing when to move on

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Nicki Anderson has a long history of empowering others, she was the first woman CEO and President of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, is a dedicated community volunteer, served on the Naperville City Council, and is currently the Director of Benedictine University’s L.E.A.D.S (Leadership, Empowerment, Action, Development, and Service) initiative for undergraduate women.

This year she was named the 2023 Woman of the Year by the Naperville area branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The award is bestowed on an individual who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and community service while supporting the advancement of equity for women.

Recently, Liz Spencer, host of Naperville Notables on 630 Naperville, had the opportunity to sit down with Nicki Anderson to chat about her many accomplishments and learn a little more about her personal life and how she blazed a path by following her heart.

Nicki Anderson’s three biggest accomplishments in life so far

The pair started the conversation by talking about Anderson’s many achievements and what makes her most proud. Not surprisingly, Nicki began by mentioning her family saying, “Well, probably my amazing children. That’s an accomplishment. I think, you know, just getting through the teenage years is probably in itself an accomplishment.”

She talked about how rewarding it was to be an author and find a publisher, especially when publishing a book was more difficult. “I’m pretty proud of that,” said Anderson.

Lastly, she is appreciative of her capacity to recognize when it is time to move on in her career. “I’ve never felt compelled to have to stay just to stay. I’ve always been able to recognize, you know what? This is good. I came and did what I said I was going to do. Now I think its time to find something else where I can make a difference,” remarked Nicki.

What food does Anderson eat on repeat?

Spencer asked her next about her go-to foods and Anderson was quick to respond that salmon is at the top of her list. “I’ll eat it anyway. Cold, hot, leftovers, anyway, I absolutely love salmon, so that’s kind of like my favorite,” answered Nicki.

She also spoke about her love of cooking and how her family is always impressed with the “Miracle Meals” she can whip up with whatever random ingredients she might have in the refrigerator at any given time. “Then I throw something together and it’s just it’s a creative outlet perhaps for me, and then I get to eat it. So that’s even better. It’s my happy place when I’m cooking.”

She also gave honorable mention to malassadas, a Portuguese dessert her grandmother often made.

What three people would Nicki Anderson invite to dinner, dead or alive? 

Spencer asked Nicki who might make the guest list if she could invite anyone living or deceased. “So definitely my grandmother, because I would make her cook and I would cook with her. That would be a real joy. I would love to sit down and asked her to ask her questions that I didn’t think were important when I was younger. There are so many questions I would have for her now,” said Anderson.

The second dinner guest Anderson chose was Sylvia Earle, an American marine biologist, oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer. Andersen said she discovered her a few years back after watching the environmental documentaries she loves. She admired her passion and commitment from such a young age in such a male-dominated field. “And this woman who is just the most fascinating progressive researcher, so brilliantly smart and so far ahead of her time,” remarked Nicki.

Finally, Nicki said she would invite Rosa Parks because she stood up for the right thing even when it was hard. “As a woman, and a woman of color and the time that it was, it’s just mind-blowing that someone would have that chutzpah to just say no,” said Anderson.