Ryan Bowman, former associate director of spiritual formation and Title IX investigator and case manager, has been chosen as the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
After a nationwide search that began in October of 2019, the Office of Student Life and a 12-person search committee narrowed down applicants and selected Bowman.
“It was a long and lengthy process and I thank God for everyone involved,” Bowman said.
Bowman, a graduate of Southwestern Christian College and Abilene Christian University, has held various positions on campus since 2011. Bowman served as associate director of spiritual formation, campus Title IX investigator and case manager and recruiter for the College of Biblical Studies.
April Napier, former director of the office of multicultural affairs, left the university in October, during which time Bowman transitioned into the position of Interim for the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
Bowman said when he was first approached and asked to consider serving as interim, he was a little nervous.
“I hadn’t worked with students in this close a capacity for a long time,” Bowman said. “So I turned it down a few times, and then I really thought about it. And I remembered when I was in college I had a professor, years ago, that challenged us as students when he was asked to take on a task, he asked, ‘By whose authority do I have to say no?’ And he was talking about Christ. And if the opportunity presents itself in the Kingdom, you don’t see yourself as qualified, but what if God does?”
Bowman has served as interim for about six months.
“It gave me a birds-eye view of how things ran and how to communicate with students, which I was really not strong with because I’ve always been in an authoritative role,” Bowman said. “Here, I am learning some dynamics among students and one of the things that people don’t understand is that, you get into a role, you’re not really ‘ready-made.’ There’s no such thing as a ‘ready-made individual.’ You have to be exposed to it. You have to learn to adapt.”
With more than 35 percent of minority racial or ethnic students represented across campus, the Office of Multicultural Affairs provides resources and fellowship opportunities for a diverse community.
“I had to learn how to become a student with them, which is very humbling,” Bowman said. “And these are not just any students, these are the cream-of-the-crop. I’ve never seen student workers that are this diligent, committed and extremely smart.”
Bowman said he plans to implement some new initiatives through phases, with significance of student input. The first phase, that will begin in March, will be a rebranding of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, by renovating the office and lounge spaces to make them more welcoming and inviting.
“We’re just rebranding, not changing anything, because I don’t believe it’s broken,” Bowman said. “They have kept it together, I say they not me, because they have kept this office together.”
The second phase is to connect the Office of Multicultural Affairs with the Office of Admissions.
“What we would like to do, in the future, is to partner with admissions and when we get new students to get tours down here, to come downstairs, to see this place, let students know, especially students of color, that when they’re coming here they can find a familiar face that will partner with them and their walk,” Bowman said. “We want to make sure that we are visible to campus and to our future students and serve the population that is here.”
Bowman said one thing the office is working on now is training others to be healthy encouragement partners to all walks of life, whether male or female or any cultural background.
“What they taught me is that consistent communication is key,” Bowman said. “Because you’re serving the need of a population that is constantly changing. Next year will not be the same as this year. So the innovativeness of you having to be ahead and to make sure that you are listening to them.”
In a campus-wide email from Dr. Scott McDowell, vice president for student life, McDowell said, “The members of the search committee who selected Ryan have been impressed with his commitment to bridge cultural and social barriers and to make sure all of our students feel valued. His ability to connect with a variety of individuals, combined with his strong understanding and knowledge of ACU, position him well to lead this area.”
“For the tenure that I’ve been in the role of interim, I’ve had more faculty and staff ask, ‘What can we do? We want to be of service.’ So I think it’s important for me to brag about how intentional this university has been in involving themselves in the lives of students,” Bowman said. “My heart melts with the fact that [we] have individuals who would like to share in their experience, and not to get in front, not to take it over, but to simply just to share in their experience and their walk and to say, ‘Hey, we are here if you need us.’ And that has made me feel safe and I know it’s made the students feel safe.”