Dr. J.D. Bowers has fourteen years of experience in Honors teaching and administration, and over three decades of professional experience in higher and secondary education. He is passionate about making sure that honors students at MU succeed in their academic and co-curricular pursuits, guiding students through their explorations and engagements with knowledge, specifically in an expansive (both broad and deep) understanding of the dimensions and dynamics of genocide and its lasting consequences. Through his work in the classroom and his efforts to extend students’ learning beyond those confines, he has experienced what he considers his most “notable” accomplishments.
He holds a Ph.D. and MA in history from Indiana University and a BA in government from The College of William & Mary in Virginia, is a 2005 recipient of a Fulbright Teaching Award, the recipient of two awards for outstanding international teaching, the Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (NIU), the 2017 Ann Covington Award for Mentoring, from MU’s Fellowships Office, and the 2019 Mizzou Alumni Association Faculty Award for Excellence.
He is a native of Northumberland, PA, and spent his childhood years in both central Pennsylvania and Surf City, (Long Beach Island or LBI) New Jersey.
In addition to his role as director of MU’s Honors College, Dr. Bowers is a professor in Honors, and a faculty affiliate in both the Black Studies Department and the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy (KICD).
He maintains an active scholarly career, leading study abroad programs, teaching courses, and conducting research. Over the past eight years he has led a program of study, in partnership with The Hague University of Applied Sciences (Den Haag, Nederland), in examining the dimensions of post-genocide justice and conflict resolution, has taught numerous Honors Tutorials, and teaches an undergraduate survey course on genocide. He has also led programs that have focused on the long-term consequences of mass atrocities, to the divided island of Cyprus and to Bosnia and Herzegovina, both states that are still plagued by their divisions. And with the growing dearth of knowledge as well as the passing of the generation of survivors, he has relaunched his teaching of a readings seminar on the Holocaust.
He is currently working on two book manuscripts, the first of which explores the last fifty years of the unresolved Cyprus conflict, including the religious, social, economic, political, cultural, and health and wellness facets of the failed reconciliation processes. His second book project is on the genocide in Bosnia, in which he aims to be the first to tell the full history of the Bosnian genocide in a format suitable for classrooms and lay readers. He is also writing several articles on the intersectional dimensions of genocide, has an ongoing project on the Allied War Expositions of WWI, as well as co-authoring a piece on the student development and global awareness aspects of study abroad.
His first book, Joseph Priestley and English Unitarianism in America (Penn State, 2007) was an examination of the trans-Atlantic exchange of religious, political, and cultural ideas, identities, and faith practices, all within the framework of the origins and development of one of America’s most progressive faith communities, and how religious minorities interacted with the larger, more dominant faith communities and denominations.
He remains globally active on the political and social dimensions of genocide and its consequences, including as an invited member of the ICC Scholars Forum, with additional training in peace and conflict resolution by the International Center for Transitional Justice (New York City) and the International Catalan Institute for Peace (Barcelona, España).
As a teacher, he feels that it is a privilege to guide students towards a deeper knowledge of their world, their place in it, and their obligations to each other. He has adopted a global perspective to his teaching methods and subjects, facilitating the exploration of the inherent contradictions and challenges that are brought forth by a deepening of a student’s knowledge and through exposure to ideas that are completely new to them.
When he has a chance, he also teaches and does research on the social, economic, political, and cultural dimensions of food and drink, most notably BBQ and bourbon, and has routinely co-taught one of the most popular courses in the Honors College, BBQ: Cuts, Consumption, and Culture, out of which he is currently working on several projects, including a manuscript and several articles. This class also led to the first Honors College – corporate partnership through an on-going project with Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS).
At Mizzou he has been instrumental in the creation of several new courses, including Unbound: Reading with Purpose, which is linked to the Unbound Book Festival in Columbia, allowing students to read the work of authors with whom they get to meet and interact. This course model then led to the development of two similar courses, one that engages students in the True/False Film Festival, and the other that extends the engagement of students with the ideas and issues that are at the core of the annual Honors One Read book. He was also the architect of the ASH Scholars program, a new model of undergraduate research and artistry that pairs two or more faculty together with eight to ten students, in a long-term project, to the benefit of all participants.
He is the founder and director of the Genocide and Human Rights Institute, an on-going scholarly collaboration of academics, teachers, researchers, and activists in the field that has sponsored programs in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and here on campus. And between 2005 and 2015 he was a co-principle investigator on a number of Teaching American History Grants, totaling over $4.3 million in research and teaching support.
Still, he considers his work in honors to be the highlight of his career. “It is the greatest space within the academy,” he notes, “allowing me to teach, research, serve, and also be an important part of the University’s administrative team that gets to shape the future of so many highly talented, motivated, and inquisitive young adults. Honors is an-always stimulating arena.” In fact, he recently published a chapter on advancing honors, entitled “Incremental Innovation” in Excellence, Innovation, and Ingenuity in Honors Education, edited by Graeme Harper and published by Cambridge Scholarly Publishing (2019).
He lives in and is actively involved throughout the Mizzou and Columbia communities.