Post Date and Author: 
- by  Abby Weingarten
As an undergraduate student at New College of Florida, Lawrence Bowdish ’00 immersed himself in the academic rigor of history and economics—paving the way for him to ultimately pursue a high-powered career in the nonprofit arena.

Today, he is the executive director for research and issue networks with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center—an organization that helps businesses “make the world a better place.” Bowdish began consulting with the Center in 2013 and ascended to his new position in August.

“In my current role, I conduct research into any number of issues facing the business community. My most recent projects have come in the areas of diverse and inclusive entrepreneurship, LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace, and small business development,” Bowdish said. “The aspect of my work that I enjoy the most is the ability to tackle large challenges like these, and then present them in a way that encourages the private sector to address them effectively.”

Bowdish engages in long-term research projects related to corporate social responsibility. He works directly with companies, chambers of commerce, nonprofits and associations to determine compelling research questions that lead to impactful projects.

Bowdish holds a Ph.D. in modern American and economic history from The Ohio State University (OSU), where he wrote a dissertation on consumer credit discrimination, and published articles on the mortgage and student loan markets. He has worked as a professor for OSU and the American Military University, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in U.S., economic, technological and women’s history. He also worked as a consultant for county health departments that instituted public health initiatives for Florida youth.

Bowdish graduated from New College in 2004, and he wrote a senior thesis entitled The Cyclical Nature of American Bank Lending to Latin America in the 20th Century. Mentors like Professor of History David Harvey, Ph.D.; Professor of Economics Richard Coe, Ph.D.; Emeritus Professor of Political Science Eugene Lewis, Ph.D.; Professor of Mathematics Eirini Poimenidou, Ph.D.; and Emeritus Professor of History Justus Doenecke, Ph.D., made a significant impression on Bowdish’s way of thinking.

“I remember, when I submitted my paper for my first class with Professor Doenecke (“History of World War II”), he pulled me aside to say, ‘If you submit this in graduate school, they’ll tell you to go sell insurance,’” Bowdish said. “That statement lit the fire I needed to succeed.”

Like many New College students, Bowdish eventually went on to attend graduate school.

“New College was extremely important in getting me ready for the graduate experience—not only the accelerated work pace and load, but thinking critically instead of just focusing on memorization or repetition,” Bowdish said. “I combined fields in both the history and economics departments (cross-listing departments in a Ph.D. is uncommon). Navigating my own educational path at New College gave me the experience and drive necessary to make that happen.”

Throughout his career with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Bowdish has helped stand up a multi-sector public health partnership in rural Maryland; build programs that distributed nearly $15,000,000 in COVID-19 relief to small businesses; and create pathways for businesses of all sizes to champion inclusion in their organizations and communities.

“My New College training has served me well. Many people are good at finding good answers. Few people are good at finding good questions,” Bowdish said. “At its heart, the thesis experience—and, by extension, many classes at New College—is more about asking the right question than finding the right answer. In a world dominated by data and information, understanding the right question is an often missed step to finding the right answer.”

Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.