For Joanne Bowman ’82, life’s common themes center on building relationships and creating transformation.
These tenets have defined her career, where she has devoted her professional life to human resources and organizational development roles primarily for higher education and nonprofit organizations. Her work involves coaching, organizational and leadership development, group relations and interpersonal dynamics, which leads to organizational and individual transformation.
“My professional focus has been to build and develop the most effective ways for people to communicate – in person, in teams, peer-to-peer and in families,” she says.
At Montclair, Bowman majored in Communication Sciences and Disorders and made sure to experience it all, taking part in many aspects of campus life. She worked steady jobs while a student, including working at Sprague Library. She served as a resident assistant in Webster Hall and was part of the women’s varsity fencing team, intramural basketball and is a member of the national sorority of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., then a city-wide chapter for Montclair and other area schools.
“I got a really wonderful college experience,” she shares. “I wasn’t just a student, I was a member of the Montclair State University community. It was important for me to be part of the life of the University.”
She attributes “experiencing college beyond the classwork” as what helped her grow, and encourages today’s students to put themselves out there and do the same.
“Don’t typecast yourself,” she advises. “Don’t limit your experience to what’s comfortable. College is a safe space to explore, it creates opportunities you never thought of.”
“It did wonders for me,” she adds.
After completing her undergraduate degree at Montclair, Bowman went on to earn a master’s in Organizational Psychology and Change Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University and multiple human resources certifications, including Principles and Practices of Organizational Development as well as Organizational Development, Change Management and Consultation, both from Teachers College. She also is certified to provide feedback on professional development, completing the Hogan Assessment and Advanced Feedback certification from Hogan Assessment Systems.
These skills have fueled a fulfilling career, leading up to her current role as director of human resources at Columbia University Libraries, where she guides strategic human resources, staff development and change management. She has held various human resources positions at Columbia University since 2007, including senior director of human resources for employee and organizational development and director of human resources and staff affairs at the University’s Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health. Earlier in her career, she worked as an employee relations manager at New York University.
Bowman has served as an adjunct instructor at New York University teaching human resources principles and practices and was a group facilitator at Yale School of Management last year for a course in interpersonal and group dynamics.
Just as she leads organizations in change, Bowman has applied change strategies to her own life, becoming a health and wellness enthusiast that has led her to become a competitive powerlifter.
“I’ve found my way back to what I enjoyed in my college years – being involved, being physically active,” she shares. “It’s important to find what gives you joy…when you identify joy, you see the change.”
As an alumna and as a resident of Montclair, she has stayed involved as a volunteer leader, serving on a community advisory council between the University and community of Montclair that was active years back, and is currently enjoying her connection and leadership role serving as president for the Black Alumni Advisory Council (BAAC). Similar to her own guiding principles, the overarching themes of the BAAC are building networks and relationships, creating community and giving back.
“It gives me a sense of being able to give back to current students and recent alumni,” she says.
Bowman invites alumni to get involved and looks forward to meeting people at the Black Alumni Advisory Council Gala celebration on Friday, Oct. 28 and at Homecoming’s signature alumni event on Saturday, Oct. 29 – the Alumni Barbecue.
Bowman believes in serving the community, and along with contributing to the University’s community connections, she has volunteered as a career coach for United Way of Northern New Jersey since 2014.
One lesson she has learned as a career coach is that everyone has talents to share. “It’s all about creating connections: what you know can spark something for someone else.”
“I always ask myself how I’m making a difference in someone else’s life,” she says. “When you get involved and give back, you never know whose life you are going to touch.”