A self-described “lifelong educator,” Dr. Mark Bowles sees his role as Trevecca’s new director of Academic Services as more of a calling than a job.
“One of my writing tutors recently articulated an idea that I’ve had, but the way she said it inspired me,” Bowles said. “She talked about her work as being a mission for her, a calling. That sitting down with people and looking at their writing was about more than correct grammar. She said she did this as doing a service, as a spiritual commitment.
“That just resonates with me because this program is all about connecting people with resources to help them improve their lives and reach goals,” Bowles continued. “And all of that is a way of showing Christ’s love.”
One of the University’s newest faculty members, Bowles takes over at the helm of Academic Services after the retirement of longtime director Dr. Donna Gray. Bowles, a Missouri native, holds four degrees from the University of Missouri–Columbia, including a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis.
Bowles has devoted his entire professional career to education. He’s served as a teacher, middle school principal, an assistant superintendent and spent three years as the superintendent of schools in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Most recently, Bowles served in a variety of roles at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri, ranging from working in admissions to directing the college’s Student Support Services program, which Bowles says prepared him well for his work at Trevecca.
“I worked as the director of Student Support Services at Columbia College which entails a lot of what I’m doing here,” Bowles said. “I think my experience [there] has been beneficial because we had a tutoring program, a mentoring program and a variety of different trainings in study skills and how to be a successful student. It’s felt in many ways like [a seamless transition].”
At Trevecca, Bowles wants the services he and his team provide to be more visible to Trevecca students.
“We are really hoping to make what is already an excellent program easier to access,” Bowles said. “We’ve already updated the website and put forms to request tutors there. We want to make [Academic Services] easier to access and more visible with a strong social media presence.”
Located on the second floor of the Bud Robinson Building, Academic Services provides tutoring, writing services, test prep and more to Trevecca students. Those services are available to students whether they’ve chosen in-person classes or remote learning, Bowles says.
“COVID-19 has significantly changed some of the ways we work,” he said. “The classic tutor sitting shoulder-to-shoulder and looking at the same book or computer screen and talking just can’t happen. We also want to support our students who have chosen to learn remotely, so we will have more remote tutors.”
In addition to continuing his calling to work with students, Bowles is also excited to be serving at a Christian institution. While his professional work has always been an outpouring of his faith, Bowles says it’s a joy to openly incorporate his faith into his work.
“After 20 years in public education when Michelle Gaertner said, ‘Let’s open up with prayer,’ at my first interview, I almost fell out of my chair,” Bowles said. “The opportunity to work in an institution where one’s spiritual beliefs are not peripheral but rather central to the entire thought and idea of why we pursue education—for leadership and service—is wonderful.”
While his love of students and his desire to serve at a Christian university certainly shaped Bowles’ decision to come to Trevecca, one major reason cemented the choice for him.
Well, four reasons, to be exact.
“My wife, Melanie, and I have four grandchildren who live in Camden, Tennessee,” Bowles said with a laugh. “It was a seven-hour drive one-way from Missouri—and you cannot ask a doting grandmother to keep that up. So we had been talking for quite a while about moving to Tennessee, and I started looking at higher education institutions in Nashville. A friend mentioned Trevecca, so when a position came open that I was qualified for, I jumped on it.”
While a few things have changed in Bowles’ life in the past few months, some have stayed the same. He’s still dedicated to living out his calling to equip students for success. He’s still devoted to his faith in Christ.
And, if you find yourself in need of chocolate after a particularly hard day, he’s still the guy you’ll want to visit.
“By accident at Columbia College, I started filling up this chocolate bowl. No one told me that you were supposed to do it once, then give it to the next person,” Bowles said. “So ever since 2013, I’ve been filling up the bowl with chocolate, and I just enjoy it. So if you have a chocolate craving and are anywhere near the second floor of Bud Robinson, I can help you out.”
To learn more about Academic Services and the services they provide (for free), visit Trevecca.edu/AcademicServices.