Bowman Still Leads Study Abroads After 13 Years

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Some teachable moments can’t be created in the classroom, and no one knows this better than Kirk Bowman.       

“For example, I was leading a study abroad trip to Cuba, and it was during President Carter’s visit to the country,” said Bowman, director of undergraduate programs in the School of International Affairs. “The students listened to Carter deliver a speech to a large crowd and had the opportunity to interact with the Cubans around them during and after the speech. This is the sort of thing that can’t happen in a classroom.”

In his 13 years at Georgia Tech, Bowman has led 15 study abroad groups to countries ranging from Spain to Cuba.

Currently, he is director of the 2012 Valencia, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal Program in Biology and International Affairs.    

“I spent many years living in Latin America and feel strongly that you need to experience a culture to understand it,” Bowman said. “I think that all students should spend time abroad while at Tech, and if I think that way, I feel like I need to do it myself.”

Bowman added that the students are generally well-behaved, so leading the trips is not a chore.

“They know we’re not their chaperones,” he said. “Plus, students are easy to incentivize. If you make participation a part of their grades, they are more likely to be engaged and present.”

Read on to learn more about Bowman and his time at Tech.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
A cowboy, then an oceanographer and then an attorney.

How did you arrive at Georgia Tech?          
I didn’t earn my bachelor’s degree until I was 32. I’d gone through more than five careers, including a stint as an underwater photographer, and I didn’t want my kids to have a dad who didn’t graduate from college. So, I went to college. I became friends with a professor who convinced me to stay in academia and eventually came to Tech because I liked the idea of working in a School of International Affairs. Working in international affairs allows for more eclectic research agendas than I could take on in a School of Political Science. I’ve been able to do educational and research programs that involve biology and international affairs.

Tell us a bit about your research.    
One of the reasons that spending six to eight weeks each summer with a study abroad program works for me is because my research is field work-driven. I study variations in political and economic development, primarily in countries in Latin America. For example, I’ve looked at the relationship between the militarization of a country and its development.

What piece of technology could you not live without?    
Prescription sunglasses.  

Which do you prefer and why: Facebook, Twitter or a world without either?    
A world without either. These tools may help create relationships — but they are broad and shallow.  

Where is your favorite spot on campus?
It’s the Campanile. When you’re there, Georgia Tech can feel like a regular college campus in the middle of nowhere, rather than in the middle of a city.  

If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
Penelope Cruz; she’s gorgeous. And I have enjoyed so many of her films over the years, especially those directed by Almodóvar.

Where is your favorite place to have lunch, and what do you order?
Elliott Street Deli & Pub, and I order the Caprese sandwich.

Tell us something about yourself that people might not know.
When I lived in Las Vegas — and had a very different career — I had a chance to party with musical artists such as Alice Cooper. But it wasn’t much of a party with him — he sipped a Diet Coke most of the time.



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