On Wednesday, March 12, the Office of Communications sent an email to the
Goucher community announcing José Antonio Bowen as the college’s next president.
Bowen, who is currently the dean of Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, is from Cuban ancestry and was raised near Barcelona. His family moved to California when he was five years old and he lived there through college and graduate school. Though he originally wanted to attend a conservatory for college, Bowen ended up going to Stanford, where he earned a B. A. in chemistry after changing his major nine times. He went on to earn Masters degrees in music composition and humanities and a PhD in musicology and humanities, also from Stanford.
Bowen spent time traveling as a musician but soon realized a positive alternative to constantly touring: he found satisfaction in teaching music. Bowen directed the jazz program at Stanford before moving to England to teach a variety of music topics, including theory, history, and performance at the University of Southampton.
His experience with teaching eventually led him to taking on administrative roles in academia.
“You don’t just wake up one morning when you’re young and decide you want to be a dean,” Bowen said.
But Bowen likes the creativity in being an administrator and has been the dean of the arts schools at Miami University in Ohio and the endowed Caestecker Chair of Music at Georgetown University.
However, after spending many years building specific programs at various institutions, Bowen felt it was time for as a new challenge. He views Goucher, in particular, a serious and dedicated institution with a comfortable atmosphere. He enjoyed the great questions that the students, faculty, and board of trustees asked him in the candidate sessions. During the interviews, he focused on being himself and being transparent so that the community could get to know him.
Bowen’s goals for Goucher include investing in what we do and maintaining the study abroad requirement by providing more support for the before and after experiences. Bowen recognizes how difficult the transition back from abroad can be for many students. While any study abroad is going to be a fun and meaningful experience, Bowen encourages students to choose a study abroad program that might be more uncomfortable.
Although Southern Methodist University is much larger than Goucher, Bowen commented that the size of the arts school he is currently the dean of at SMU scales up well to Goucher’s size. This will be the sixth institution he has worked for and they have all been very different.
Bowen plans to live on campus in the president’s house with his wife, Kimberly, and their three dogs and cat. He wants to interact with students and faculty, and hopes to meet everyone within his first year. He plans to play soccer outside, eat in the dining halls, go to sporting events, and allow students to walk his dogs.
After his visit to campus, the Board of Trustees told Bowen they would meet on a certain day and that he would get a call on that day if he got the job. Bowen explained that was giving a lecture in San Diego that day. When he saw that his phone was ringing, he declined the call because he was in the middle of a conference. He promptly returned the call, and Becki Kurdle ‘61, chair of the search committee, told him he got the job.
“I was surprised,” Bowen said. But when inquired if he wasn’t confident about his candidacy, he replied, “You obviously haven’t met my mother.”
Kurdle said the search committee was impressed with Bowen’s background.
“His conversations with us showed his commitment to the liberal arts and that he would be a good ambassador for Goucher,” Kurlde said.
She also commented that the Search Committee believed Bowen “would be able to build on the solid foundation that Sandy Ungar is leaving while bringing new ideas to effect the changes that will be needed.”
Goucher’s current president, Sanford Ungar, is happy with the college’s choice with Bowen as the next president.
“[Jose Bowen is] energetic and creative, and he shares Goucher’s values,” Ungar said.
Bowen and Ungar have been communicating with one another to “assure a smooth transition,” Ungar said.
Although the candidate sessions were during classes, club meeting times, athletic practices, and other student commitments, it was crucial for students to go to these sessions and give their feedback. Billy Daly ’16, who went to sessions for all three candidates found Bowen to be “the most comfortable and adept to working the room,” and “captured everyone’s attention.” Daly admires Bowen’s mindset of innovation, which is an “obligation” for the college. He believes Bowen has the capabilities of seeing the bigger picture and to find a way to “transform a Goucher that could be into a Goucher that is.”
Micah Heaney ’17, who also attended sessions for all three candidates, thinks Bowen has a “real investment in [and] experience with liberal arts education,” and an interest in talking to students.
Bowen will begin as Goucher’s 11th president on July 1, 2014.