Student Spotlight

From corrections to the classroom: Brandman doctoral grad forges new career

March 03, 2016 by Margo Myers
Rowlanda Cawthon

Rowlanda Cawthon

A chance conversation at church led Dr. Rowlanda Cawthon to her newest position at Northwest University as a professor in the College of Business.

“I’d just participated in commencement and earned my doctorate from Brandman University, and a woman at church asked if I had applied to Northwest University,” said Cawthon. “I got the contact information from someone she knew and that led to me meeting Dr. Teresa Gillespie who offered me a full-time position as a visiting assistant professor.” That was last summer. And by November, Cawthon received approval for a tenure track position at the private Christian university in Kirkland, Washington.

“I am thrilled to be teaching here, and working with these students,” said Cawthon. “I have a strong, charismatic personality and sometimes need to dial it back. But, I was told to bring that part of me to the classroom, to be an authentic leader, and the response from students has been tremendous.”

Cawthon’s road to university professor has been somewhat unconventional. She worked for the state of Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) for 11 years as a corrections unit supervisor, communications consultant and in other positions. While at the DOC, her supervisor encouraged her to go back to school.

Cawthon earned her master’s degree in organizational leadership at Chapman University College, now known as Brandman University, and that led to new opportunities, including teaching part time at Brandman as an adjunct professor, a role in which she continues today.

When one of her mentors, Brandman’s Dr. Glenn Worthington encouraged Cawthon to pursue her doctorate, she entered the Ed. D. program at Brandman’s Roseville, California campus. Now, Cawthon is bringing her varied work and educational experience to teach Organization and Management Theory, a graduate level class – Operations Management – and International Human Resources Management at Northwest.

“In fact, I’m co-leading a trip this spring to Prague, Budapest and Vienna for undergraduate students in the international class,” said Cawthon. “They’ll have the opportunity to visit specific businesses and gain exposure to global leadership practices.”

It’s not just students on whom Cawthon is making an impression. It’s also Northwest’s leadership team. “Dr. Cawthon is setting the woods on fire at Northwest University with her intelligence, charisma and spirituality,” said Dr. Joseph Castleberry, president of Northwest University. “We are committed to giving her the opportunities and formative experiences to make the most of her leadership potential. I think she’s in a room without a roof here!”

The dean of the Business College sees Cawthon as a role model and mentor for students. “Dr. Cawthon’s persistence, strong work ethic and faith is a great illustration for our students that their dreams and desire for greater influence are also possible,” said Dean Teresa Gillespie, Northwest’s College of Business. “I know that she will have a long-lasting positive impact on students at Northwest University.”

Cawthon looks at her life and is amazed at where she is. “If anyone would have asked me if I would be here, I would have said no,” Cawthon commented. “Everything has worked together, from the mentors in my life to my career experiences, to get me to this place.”

This story appeared first in FTE magazine, a publication for state employees.

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