Bowers begins his new job Monday, July 1.
“University Honors has some of the most engaged and rigorous academic offerings, exciting programming and sustained student, faculty, staff and alumni outreach of any unit on campus,” Bowers says. “I can hardly wait to get started.”
He takes over the post confident that his predecessors laid the foundations of an exceptional program, knowing that he is joining an experienced and skilled staff, and excited to begin working with the many different program partners.
“The University Honors program engages so many different constituencies within the university,” Bowers stated, “that it takes dozens of supportive partners to make it all work.”
Bowers calls himself fortunate to be stepping into the program at a time when it has already had great success, with a strategic plan in place and an ongoing commitment from the university to further enhance and strengthen the program.
“University Honors fits with the current and future directions of the institution and it is well-aligned with President Baker’s announced imperatives to become the premier undergraduate institution in the Midwest,” he says. “It makes it that much more exciting to be a part of the program.”
He is no stranger to the University Honors program, however.
In his 12 years at NIU, he has taught multiple honors seminars (on topics drawn from his research on genocide and the role of the United States in the Middle East), more than a dozen mini-sections, served as a capstone adviser for several student projects and, most recently, led one of two University Honors-dedicated study abroad programs.
These experiences have shaped his list of priorities for the program:
- stellar course enrichment experiences;
- a more global approach (through study abroad and global internship opportunities);
- developing a cohort of a dedicated University Honors faculty; and
- providing a richer, more diverse and social justice-oriented series of programs.
He also seeks to diversify the program enrollment and ensure that the many different populations of NIU students find University Honors to be a welcoming and engaging program – from married students to transfer students to students from historically under-represented populations. “These are just a few of the ideas that the staff will be working on,” he says. “But there is much more to come.”
It is an ambitious agenda, Vice Provost Anne Birberick says, but one that Bowers is capable of taking on.
“J.D. Bowers has a deep commitment to the University Honors program, and that commitment, combined with his strong organizational skills, will ensure that the program continues to be successful,” Birberick says. “He brings passion, commitment and a strong administrative background to the position.”
Leading the University Honors Program is the latest step in his NIU career that began in 2002.
Bowers earned his doctoral degree from Indiana University and spent nine years as the director of Secondary Teacher Certification in the Department of History along with teaching a full load of history courses. Prior to arriving at NIU, he taught history at Punahou School in Honolulu and at the Maderia School, an all-girls boarding school in the Washington, D.C., metro area.
Bowers has been the recipient of multiple teaching awards and fellowships, including a Fulbright, the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, the International Educator of the Year Award and the Phi Beta Delta International Honor Society’s Outstanding International Faculty Member award.
He also received top honors for teaching and scholarship while he was a graduate student. His scholarly interests include the study of genocide and human rights, religion and the issues of colonialism and imperialism, including the role of the United States in world history.
Despite the demands of administration, he continues to teach and has an active and ongoing research and publication agenda.
“It is important to me to be an active participant in all facets of the academy and faculty roles,” says Bowers, who has even trekked along on NIU Alumni Association travel programs, serving as the faculty guide during the trip to Turkey in 2011.
Deborah Pierce, who has worked closely with Bowers over the past decade, says she believes Bowers is a superb choice for the position. She expects to work closely with the professor she calls “an expert and committed internationalist.”
“With his experience and research, he is well-suited to provide the leadership for the program,” Pierce says. “Our collaborative and vibrant international programs will grow even stronger through his contributions.”
Bowers likewise sees great things ahead for the program.
“University Honors is clearly at a juncture where we can do even greater things,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to the challenges and the complexity of the work required to make the program a model of academic and engaged learning here at NIU and throughout the nation.”