In Dr. Heath Bowen’s Native American History and Resistance course, students spend a week at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota doing service projects and learning about the Oglala Lakota tribe, its history, and the challenges its people face today. Through such real-world experiences, the associate professor of history—who grew up in rural South Dakota—aims to show his students the deep connection between history and modern-day life.
“My primary goal is to engage students in historical inquiry and help them understand multiple perspectives on historical issues,” says Dr. Bowen, who also serves as dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences at St. Thomas Aquinas College. “I always strive to connect learning, especially the past, to the real world, present-day challenges in order to make the past relevant to their lives.”
For 14 years, Dr. Bowen has taught several history courses on topics as far-reaching as the American Revolution, the history of capitalism, race, and pop culture. His primary area of scholarship is American history from 1800 to 1850, a tumultuous time full of societal formation and political tension. He explores the rise of democracy and national political parties, industrialization, the communication revolution, and the shaping of American capitalism.
During that half-century, Americans also fought over the future of slavery, the economy, the “Indian removal” policies, and national expansion, Dr. Bowen explains, and the political tensions exposed by slavery and westward expansion were deeply divisive. “Today, we are still trying to untangle the continuities of this period’s political tensions and social developments,” he says. Dr. Bowen holds a doctoral degree in United States history from Michigan State University, a master’s from Bowling Green State University, and a bachelor’s from Minnesota State University.
Since he joined the faculty at STAC in 2009, Dr. Bowen has valued its unique community and the diverse backgrounds and perspectives students bring to campus. He believes that the interrelationships between students, faculty, and administration foster one-of-a-kind learning experiences. “At a small, close-knit school, the most important experience includes the power of collaboration,” he says. “Understanding how to cooperate well with others has provided invaluable lessons aimed toward improving academic excellence.”
As an educator in the 21st century, Dr. Bowen emphasizes the importance of diversity, social justice, and public service to his students, and encourages them to achieve excellence not only as scholars but as leaders. To that end, he serves as director of the Justice Studies Institute, a group of faculty members from the School of Arts and Social Sciences who inspire academic and activist conversations with students on critical social issues and host panels, guest speakers, and film screenings. He also contributes to STAC as a member of various committees, including the Curriculum Committee, Provost Council, and the College Planning Board. As chair of the General Education Assessment Committee, he oversaw the development of STAC’s general education program between 2013 and 2018.
When he’s not at home cheering on the Boston Celtics, Dr. Bowen enjoys cycling and snowboarding in Lake Tahoe. He’s also hiked through Scotland and more recently visited Spain. However, one of his favorite places to be is at the playground with his two children, six-year-old Mila and three-year-old Duncan.