Living a life of service
From Jamaica to Minnesota, Bethel University entrepreneurship professor Mauvalyn Bowen has taken her faith, family and gifts of service with her in every journey of life.
By Sam Johnson | News Reporter
Mauvalyn Bowen experienced what it was like to give and serve at nine years old. However, in an unusual way: riding a donkey’s back. The hairy coat she sat atop would be one of many journeys taken in a life dedicated to serving others.
In Jamaica, her father worked on the family farm, while her mother served as a seamstress in the community, creating school uniforms for students.
Seeing her parents serve the community with food and clothing, Bowen wanted to be just like them. So, she helped sell produce from her father’s farm and assist her mother in sewing clothes. She even rode on their donkey’s back into the town market, with yams, potatoes, bananas, and other vegetables in the hamper alongside.
Now, an associate professor of business at Bethel University, her journey has taken her a long way from sitting atop animals at marketplaces in Jamaica.
After graduating from the University of Technology, Jamaica, and Southern Illinois University with her B.Ed in business and M.S. in workforce education and development, respectively, Bowen felt called toward a different part of the world. She earned a Fulbright Scholarship, which allowed her to come to the United States and pursue a Ph.D. in business and entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota.
While that presented a life-changing opportunity for Bowen, she faced a logistical difficulty: Her family still lived in Jamaica, more than 2,000 miles away. She feared not seeing her family for long periods of time, yet she still found joy in Christ.
“With Christ in the vessel, we can smile through every storm,” Bowen said.
So, every six weeks, she flew across the continent just to be with her family. Eventually, her husband resigned his job as an IT professional in Jamaica while she was in school at Minnesota and came with their son, something Bowen never forgets.
“Family is a permanent staple (in my life)… they are my biggest cheerleaders,” she said.
One aspect of the Fulbright Scholarship is that the recipients need to go back to their home country and serve for at least two years. Down in Jamaica, she founded the Joan Duncan School of Entrepreneurship, Ethics, and Leadership, named after the founder of Jamaican Money Market Brokers.
Bowen remembers days when she was in the process of starting the school when she would pick up her son Jovaughn from school and take him to work, occasionally with nothing more than box lunches for dinner. She learned through her journeys that work was important, but family superseded it.
“You cannot live apart from your family too long,” Bowen said. “That’s not what God ordains.”
After she completed her two years in Jamaica, another crossroads in her journey arose. She wished she could’ve stayed down in Jamaica to be with her newly-created school, which she said was one of her proudest achievements, but knew she had to go back to Minnesota and spend time with family.
“After serving two years, we (the family) needed to be together,” she said.
In 2012, Bowen returned to the States in search of a new way to serve: teaching the next generation of entrepreneurs. She bounced around as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota part-time, and full-time online for Metropolitan State University, but found a home at Bethel University.
Now, two years into her full-time faculty position at Bethel, she remembers faith being a deciding factor in choosing to teach in Arden Hills.
“I realized I could say ‘Thank you Jesus’ and ‘Praise the Lord’ in the classroom,” she said. “I thought ‘This is awesome.’ ”
Impactful service is nothing new for Mauvalyn Bowen. From the donkey’s back to the Bethel classroom, her life has been marked by her heart for serving the community around her.
As her journey stretches thousands of miles, thousands of hours and to thousands of touched lives, her business and worldly achievements pale in comparison to something more meaningful for her: having a relationship with the Lord.
“I am most proud that I am a child of God.”
(Additional reporting by Josh Eller and Joe Hiti.)