Communication Studies Associate Professor Jonathan Bowman, PhD, chose to work at USD because he admired the university's commitment to teaching and mentoring. His research focuses on interpersonal communication, so it's no surprise that this resident faculty member is actively involved in several facets of USD's campus community. He organizes study abroad programs, hosts community events and now, serves as the director of the Social Justice Living Learning Community (LLC)—a group of students who live and learn together while exploring topics related to social justice. With approximately 130 students in each community, LLCs provide an engaging learning experience for first-year students.
You are currently directing the Social Justice Living Learning Community. What is your goal with this program?
One of the benefits of a program like the Social Justice Living Learning Community is that students can organically develop an awareness of the world around them. As like-minded students live their lives and share their routines, conversations about how to make a difference in their community begin to emerge. Add to that a dynamic group of justice-aligned faculty and a full calendar of events that students can use to engage their world around them, and you have an incubator for the very types of leaders that USD hopes and expects to produce.
"As like-minded students live their lives and share their routines, conversations about how to make a difference in their community begin to emerge."
The students in your LLC will be exploring a number of issues related to social justice both in and outside of the classroom. What are some those issues? And how will the students encounter them?
Social Justice is a unique term, in that each person understands the concept based on their own set of experiences and goals. My hope is that students will see the entire diverse menu of issues remotely related to social justice that the Living Learning Community engages (things like health care, poverty, race, underground art collectives, socioeconomic status, Hollywood depictions, labor movements, service opportunities, fair trade, etc.) and that they will both broaden their general understanding of social justice as well as deepen their current definition of what a healthy society can look like. Also, we're doing monthly events that engage social justice in nontraditional ways; for example, in December the LLC is going to observe how people use art to further social movements, and students are going to design and screen-print their own justice-themed t-shirts at an underground art collective near Chicano Park in Barrio Logan.
What is your advice to those who would like to promote peace and justice in their communities?
People always assume that the only people who can promote peace and justice in their communities are somehow radicals who quit their jobs and embrace an ascetic life, never actually fitting into a natural community. However, I believe that the first step is as simple as thinking outside your self. A life lived with an emphasis on others is the first and easiest way to begin the process of promoting peace and justice in the world around you. What bothers or excites you? Is there a way to make it better? What small steps can you take now, and what larger steps might you aspire towards?
How do you think your experience as a resident faculty member has influenced your role as an LLC leader?
Being a resident faculty member is a unique experience in and of itself. By spending time in the residence halls, I have been reminded of the importance of the transition to college every fall semester. Personalities are shaped, attitudes are birthed, new students are transformed into thinking adults; the first semester of college is an incredibly formative experience! Being in the residence halls helps remind me that people are in transition—myself included—and that it's important to give everyone experiences, relationships and tools that will allow them to develop a sense of self. And then learn to think beyond that sense. As a resident faculty member, I am able to be more available and personally involved in the lives of the LLC community, which is a great experience to serve in a unique way.
Can you tell us a little about your research? We understand that you have been interviewed about it on Good Morning America.
I'm interested in how we as men relate to the people around us. It's pretty "trendy" to make fun of the unemotional male, but men do find ways to be authentic and real in our personal lives, with our families or coworkers or the people we play sports with. The broad goal of my area of research is to discover the theory that underlies masculine communication. I'd like to contribute to the understanding of ways we can give individuals (both male and female) the freedom to actually engage men and their emotions from a place of confidence. By explaining the motivations, prescriptions, and experiences shared in common by typical western men, my research should help us to better understand how men live a complete life and engage their world. While the concept of friendship is somewhat gender-biased in many studies and the subject of much scholarly discussion, it is still my belief that male-male friendship relationships can be strengthened in our society.
You're an extremely active faculty member. You live on campus, direct study abroad programs and host events. What is your favorite part about working at USD?
[It's] the emphasis on undergraduate education. I taught at other prestigious institutions around the country before choosing USD as my home, but the deciding factor was the way that every faculty conversation was liberally seasoned with the importance of teaching and mentoring. Even at other "priority-teaching" schools, I had never seen such an emphasis on getting students involved in their own educational experience in every context. As a result, students are understanding and applying complex theories in their daily interactions, and are better able to serve and share and relate to each other. USD really does want students to be able to think outside themselves, and the faculty is given the freedom to make sure that it happens.
- Anne Malinoski ‘11