New Owens president marks first week on the jobWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Bower started in Ohio, moved to Indiana, then hit Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan and North Dakota.
He’s learned that windmill technicians are rare and valuable, that testifying before state House and Senate hearings is rewarding and that, sometimes, bodies of water expand instead of shrink.
But now he’s back in Ohio. And a homecoming, he has learned, is sweeter than charting new territories.
“Our youth, they’re always looking for something different,” he said. “It’s amazing after living in six states, you find out it’s just as good here in Ohio as it is anywhere else. But it takes moving from one state to another state to another over a period of time to find that out.”
The week of July 1 marked his first few days as president of Owens Community College. Bower has been busy meeting with faculty and department heads, chatting with students and getting accustomed to the area again. While it’s a little too early for concrete plans, he intends to begin his new appointment by keeping collaboration with area universities on his to-do list, along with continuing credit transfer programs and keeping in close contact with students.
Mary Ellen Mazey, president of Bowling Green State University, wrote in a statement that Bower brings a “breadth of experience to Owens.”
“He is certainly well known and respected in higher education. His business acumen and his dedication to student learning and success will serve him well,” she wrote. “There are many opportunities for collaboration between BGSU and Owens, and I look forward to working with Dr. Bower in the future.”
Hard act to follow
Bower is Owens Community College’s sixth president. Chosen from a pool of 300 applicants, Bower will fill the position left open by former president Larry McDougle who retired for health-related reasons in September. The college’s board of trustees announced a national search last year and Vice President of Finance and Administration John Satkowski served as interim president while the board and a search committee tracked down candidates.
McDougle, who served for about a year and a half, brought stability to the campus by attending state meetings with other community colleges, meeting students and making himself approachable to faculty and staff. He also managed to preside over a tight budget without making layoffs, said Dee Talmage, chair of the search committee.
“Larry McDougle is a hard act to follow; we loved him — we adored him,” Talmage said.
The search committee chose Bower for his experience in community colleges and business, his leadership capabilities and his high energy. His teaching experience at an Indiana University branch campus is a bonus, Talmage said, because he can empathize with teachers about how administrative decisions affect the classroom.
“He has the ability to network and is very warm and everyone feels like you can stop and chat with him,” she said. “He’s very open and honest and a very nice, pleasant person to be around.”
Along with the challenge of filling McDougle’s shoes, Bower must face the growing problem all institutions must tackle: shrinking budgets, Talmage said. Cuts in state funding have pushed the 2012 college budget to $97.06 million, down from $103.86 million in 2011, according to information provided by Owens’ spokesperson Brad Meyer.
Although Bower most recently comes from a state that ranks high in economic growth because of oil drilling, he said the tight budget is nothing new because Nebraska state legislatures were frugal. And, thanks to his passion for wind energy, Bower knows all about wrangling on the House and Senate floor.
Devils Lake legacy
Bower testified for four years to secure a $7.1 million wind turbine project at Lake Region State College (LRSC) in Devils Lake, N.D. The structure is a 1.6 megawatt, 385-foot-tall future power source for the campus that will also allow the college to sell energy credits, he said.
Bower also started the college’s wind farm technician program. The classes start simply by challenging students to make it to the top of the wind turbine. He said if they make it, the next step is to send them to the top with tools. If they can achieve that, they enroll in the program and come out with a skill that can earn them a starting salary of about $46,000 a year, he said.
He also initiated the creation of an Office of Institutional Research, led LRSC to a longer-term planning processes, expanded the nursing program by adding a simulation lab learning environment, added a student career adviser role and led the college through a Higher Learning Commission visit in 2011, which resulted in a 10-year continued accreditation status, according to an email from Erin Wood, director of marketing and communications for Lake Region State College.
Aside from academics, Bower kicked off some of the LRSC’s first sports teams. Volleyball, baseball, softball, basketball and golf were new additions under his lead.
Bower said he’s happy to be near Lake Erie, where he can continue fostering his hobby of fishing. But that’s not because Devils Lake didn’t have enough fish. In fact, the lake is expanding at a rate crippling to homeowners and farmers who live at its shore. The body of water has quadrupled in size over the past 17 years, rising by 27 feet and consuming 150,000 acres of land by flooding. The region’s climate became wetter starting in the ’90s and has yet to shift back. The lake has no outgoing streams to drain it, according to accuweather.com.
How he got here
Bower served in the U.S. military from 1971-74, worked at the Ford Motor Lincoln Mercury Division in Cincinnati until 1980 and moved on to Thomson Consumer Electronics in Chillicothe, Ohio, and Marion, Ind., until 1994. He taught technical program classes at Ivy Tech State College and management classes at Indiana University’s Kokomo campus through the ’90s. He served as associate dean, and later became dean of Academic Education & Training Programs at Central Community College in Columbus, Neb., until 2001, when he moved to Eau Claire, Wis., to become campus dean at Chippewa Valley Technical College.
He headed back to the Midwest in 2004 for Mott Community College, where he was the executive dean for extension campuses, continuing education and corporate services. His last appointment was in Devils Lake, N.D.
Before finishing his doctoral degree at the University of Nebraska, he had previously earned a Master of Business Administration from the department of business at Indiana Wesleyan University and a Bachelor of Science in industrial supervision at Indiana State University.
Bower, who grew up in Chillicothe, was accepted to The Ohio State University but didn’t have the money to go. He had secured a full ride to earn a two-year associates in applied science degree at Vincennes University in Indiana, so he decided to start there.
He said he can empathize with students concerned about affordable education. Semester tuition at Owens Community College ranges depending on number of credit hours, from $146 for one to $2,827.60 for 24 credit hours for in-state students. Out-of-state students pay $276.56 and $5,438.20, respectively.
“The most important degree I have was from a two-year school,” Bower said. “Why? Because I could afford it.”