February 24, 2016  

Purdue Profiles: John Rowan

John Rowan

John Rowan, Purdue Calumet Honors College dean and interim dean of the College of Education. (Photo provided)
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John Rowan, Purdue Calumet Honors College dean and interim dean of the College of Education, thought law and business was the right career for him until he realized philosophy permits intellectual pursuit without boundaries. 

Rowan's responsibilities as dean of the Honors College began two years before he officially accepted the role when he was asked to develop a mission, curriculum, recruitment goals and more for the college. As a philosophy professor and dean, he has never lost sight of why he went into the career he chose.

Why did you choose philosophy as a career?

I have always been an analytical person. My career decision was based on what would allow me to maximize this passion while providing the best opportunity to use it in the pursuit of truth. There are no pre-existing limitations; anything can be studied, and potential conclusions are not restricted by things such as financial considerations or advocacy for a client. Philosophy allows for the incorporation of any number of other fields, such as science, politics, history and religion. A career devoted to the use of logic and reason to pursue truths in these and other areas was really a perfect fit for who I am.

What are your initial roles in your position?

While I am responsible for programming, curricular development, strategic planning and other items specific to the Honors College, I am also heavily involved with initiatives that are more university-wide. The most important of these is recruiting.  Part of our mission in Honors is to recruit high-achieving students who may not otherwise enroll here but for the Honors College and the opportunities it affords. So I work closely with university marketing, the other academic colleges on campus, the Office of Admissions and others in Enrollment Management.

What do you love most about your job?

I love being part of a team whose mission is to impact the future in positive and significant ways. In my 19 years at Purdue Calumet, I have been fortunate to work with faculty and to identify content and teaching practices that will improve the classroom experience for students. I love seeing our students develop lifelong relationships with each other and graduate and achieve success in the pursuit of their goals. Having the opportunity to work with administrators, students and community partners has had far-reaching effects that will be felt for a long time.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?

My favorite class to teach is Ethics. In exposing students to the writings of thinkers such as Aristotle and Immanuel Kant, I love seeing their “light bulb” go on, especially when broad concepts inherent in those writings are applied to moral and political issues in society. Because this topic is about how others ought to be treated, it has a direct and substantive impact on the world.  

What is one thing you want all your students to take home from your teaching?

It is really, really difficult to identify just one thing. Primarily, I want all my students to learn to think for themselves. At this point in their lives, their beliefs have been heavily, if not solely, a function of what the media, their parents, and society has told them to believe. I want them to be able to challenge pre-existing beliefs in an effort to determine, for themselves, whether to adopt new beliefs, outlooks and worldviews. I use the tools of philosophy to equip them to make these determinations for themselves. I also want my students to realize their potential and strive for the best lives they can live.  

What are the future goals for the Honors College? 

I have big plans for the Honors College, primarily because I know our students have the potential to go on and do great things for society. One initiative on our agenda is the prospect of an honors studies major, which would allow our students to design their own specific interdisciplinary degree programs under the guidance of a faculty committee. Students would gain more leeway to pursue degree-related coursework that is in line with their particular interests. Critical thinking is a core part of our mission, so I would like to see us establish a Center for Critical Thinking and Inquiry, which would function as a research center for both students and faculty while also serving as a campus and community resource.  

For more information on the Honors College, go to http://webs.purduecal.edu/honors/

Writer: Aspen Deno, denoa@purdue.edu 

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