For nearly a year Dr. R. Bowen Loftin has served as the Chancellor of the University of Missouri. The chancellor and his wife Dr. Karin Loftin sat down with KBIA's Darren Hellwege recently to talk about their backgrounds and reflections on their time spent so far here in Columbia. This week's Thinking Out Loud is the first of a tw0-part broadcast interview with the Loftins.
Last year, R. Bowin Loftin became the University of Missouri's 22nd chief administrator. He came to Columbia after serving as president of Texas A & M University. Asked if he set out to be an administrator, he says:
It was not a goal at all. When I was about 16 years old going to high school in a small town - I am not sure why it happened - one day an epiphany came along and I decided I wanted to be a college professor. I really wanted to do that. It was one of those situations where I didn't know much about it. I looked into it and did some research. What would it take to get there? I realized that I had to pick a field of study and get a quality degree... that's kind of how it started out. That's what I wanted to do and I got there in a very deliberate way.
Eventually, Bowen earned a PhD in physics. His wife and now-University of Missouri first lady Karin Loftin also holds a PhD. Hers is in biomedical sciences. The story of how they met came up in the conversation. Bowen confessed that it was:
...in a bar. I was going to graduate school at Rice University in Houston. Across the street was one of the worlds biggest medical center and Karin was going to grad school over there. We met through a mutual friend. What's not really well-known was that in my first year at Rice - 1970, '71 - graduate students were allowed to build a bar for ourselves at the University. We were given space under the chemistry building. Using some wonderful old oak paneling that had been taken out of another building for renovation purposes. We constructed in this dark, dank, dusty place a small place to meet. We served one thing there: Shiner Bock beer. I volunteered to bartend there one night a week. One day, Karin's friend who was dating a friend of mine brought here there and we met over the foosball table. How romantic, huh?
Bowen shared an earlier research focus that looked at how technology can help colleges and universities best serve students.
Fundamentally, the University exists to educate students. That's why were built. We do many things. I can't forget that. At the same time, we are all differently gifted. Every faculty member, every student has different gifts. You try to find out how to match those up. A good teacher can usually find out one-on-one exactly what that particular student needs to be successful. When you take that teacher and put them in front of a classroom of hundreds, you have to homogenize it. You really can't do it that way. The good students survive fine. The marginal students may be left behind because they don't get the specific thing they need delivered to them. And so the goal I had in this research was trying to find ways to reach that student and customize the experience just for them so they got the optimal learning environment. We showed through some good research that it was effective.
Listen to part two of the KBIA interview with Drs. R. Bowen and Karin Loftin next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on KBIA 91.3FM. Past episodes of the program Thinking Out Loud are online.