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Jon Maes Rowand

Jon Maes Rowand

Jon Maes Rowand knew he wanted to work at Oklahoma City University from the time he stepped foot on the plane that took him to his job interview.

“There were people talking across the aisle, helping each other put their bags up, and I was like, ‘Oh, they must know each other,’ but they didn’t. ‘Oh, you’re from Oklahoma, too?’ People were making friends on the plane,” he said.

“The people got me—the friendliness and hospitality of Oklahoma and especially OKCU.” Jon appreciates how welcoming the university community is to international students. “American students are really inviting. I really like the student-centered focus. You can feel the 11-to-1 ratio.”

Jon grew up surrounded by tall trees and water on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound near Seattle. He studied religion, politics, and philosophy at Gonzaga University. His college buddies sold him on teaching English in South Korea when he graduated. There, he taught ESL and the IELTS test, developed college-prep curriculum, and worked for ACT as the southeast Asia regional manager. He earned his master’s in research and innovation in higher education in Europe, where he met his wife, Binh Ha, now a program specialist in OKCU’s BSN-to-DNP program, and took an assistant director position at Tacoma Community College back in Washington.

He was looking for a director job on the West Coast when he saw the opening at OKCU and realized it was everything he was looking for—just in a location he didn’t expect.

Here, International Admissions helps full-time, degree-seeking students. Jon oversees the budget and recruitment, while international admissions advisors handle admissions decisions in cooperation with the schools. About the time Jon started, the department expanded to include international student services, so he and the International Admissions team has helped with various activities such as OKCU’s 2018 International Education Week, revamping orientation, and more. Jon also plays a key role in OKCU’s development of partnerships with overseas institutions. He’s been able to renegotiate contracts with agents who help find students, track visas to gain a clear picture of which students are attending or not and why, analyze that data for better recruitment, and survey students regarding satisfaction.

International Admissions helps students figure out work visas and jobs after graduation in cooperation with Career Services, he said. They also work with every academic department, financial aid, Student Life, University Communications, and many other units.

Anyone on campus is welcome to contact International Admissions with any international question—whether it’s admissions-related or not, Jon said. “We don’t stop helping as soon as they’re admitted. Send students our way; we’re happy to help.” They have helped when students are underperforming in class because of homesickness or issues unique to international students, although they defer to counselors and academic advisors as appropriate. They can also help with immigration issues, help students get jobs, and help students connect and make friends.

“I’m very fortunate when I go on my trips to meet a lot of alumni,” Jon said. “Their stories are amazing: They still keep in touch with their professors, even after graduating 20 years ago. The video we have, ‘OCU is everywhere’ really is true.” Graduates from 2000 to the present live in 130+ countries, largely thanks to a diverse athletics program, he said.

Jon’s long-term goal is to earn a Ph.D. and become a part-time professor and part-time administrator. He loves learning about learning and wants to add educational technology to his repertoire. “I really do think that’s the future of higher education.”

His favorite podcasts include Read to Lead, WorkLife, The Tim Ferriss Show, and Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders from Stanford. He’s also learning guitar.

He and Binh are about to start their third year of a book challenge where they each read 20 books in 20 different categories, such as autobiographies, books they abandoned long ago, books made into movies, and the other challenger’s choice. The hardest this year involved “one-page-long sentences” by a Nobel winner. He thought the most interesting was 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, the book his wife challenged him to read. “I was really just into articles, articles, textbooks, textbooks,” he said, so Binh’s challenge is making him more well-rounded.