By Kenneth Smith, a student worker in the Office of Public Relations at JSU
Earlier this year at the annual Higher Education Partnership (HEP) Alumni Task Force banquet in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Lori Owens of Jacksonville State University was given the night’s highest honor. The HEP Leadership Award is based on personal contributions that help make the case that higher education is important to the people of Alabama. The Alumni Task Force, made up of the alumni directors from all Alabama universities, makes the final determination of each year’s winner of the award.
Gordon Stone, director of the Partnership, stated, “Dr. Lori Owens served multiple terms as chair of the Board of Directors of the Higher Education Partnership. In that role, she was a faithful and dedicated leader who encouraged fellow faculty members on her campus and across the state to be engaged advocates. She believed in students and often used her own resources to build their awareness of the significance of their voice.”
Dr. Owens has been the guest speaker at many public forums on behalf of higher education and leads seminars on the vital role students play as advocates. Dr. Owens takes a busload of students to the Higher Education Day in Montgomery every year so that they can experience the process of higher education as it pertains to Alabama state government.
Jacksonville State University President (JSU) Dr. William A. Meehan, responded to the news by stating, “We are all very proud of the recognition which Dr. Owens received from the Higher Education Partnership. She has worked tirelessly as chair of the Partnership and is very deserving…She is an exceptional leader and an outstanding educator. We are proud she represents Jacksonville State University.”
When asked about the award, Owens responded by saying, “There were a lot of well deserving people in the room that night that have a heart and passion for higher education and the Partnership; I am just grateful for an organization that cares about higher education and what it means. When you get right down to it, higher education provides opportunities and unlocks doors. I am glad that there are others in the state that make up The Partnership so that we can work toward a common goal. We all need to think about what would happen to the area we live in if our four year universities weren’t here.”
Owens, a Cherokee County resident, started her tenure at JSU in 1998 after getting an offer for a one-year full-time position. She says she has no regrets about taking the position at JSU soon after receiving her doctorate from the University of Alabama.
Owens knew she wanted to teach, but never knew that the opportunity would present itself so quickly and especially at a place she held so dear. Owens received her undergraduate degree from JSU, and the opportunity was one she quickly agreed to.
While in college, Owens worked with Tom Bevill as a Congressional Intern and later returned for a time to Washington D.C. to do dissertation research. Although Owens has been afforded opportunities to travel, she says that in another life she would love to have traveled internationally for work. One of Dr. Owens most memorable trips was being chosen as one of fourteen individuals nationwide to participate in the NATO European Study Tour in 2002. She attributes this honor to being a young professor who taught global studies in her classroom while working at a teaching institution. After the tour, Owens was able to stay and do some touring of her own and says she loved having this experience.
Dr. Owens is thankful for and thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to teach at JSU and says she realizes that the ultimate pay is not in monetary form, but in the letters, cards, and emails from grateful alumni thanking her for touching their lives.
Dr. Owens is currently working on a book and has many other plans for the future. Anyone fortunate enough to take a class with her will admire her passion for political science and her wealth of knowledge.