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Chico State

Celebrating Mary Bowman: 2022’s Making a Difference Award Winner

Mary Bowman wears a pink top and holds an award certificate with her right hand and a trophy with her left hand as she poses for a photo.
(Jason Halley / University Photographer)

Volunteer work has always mattered to Mary Bowman.

Over the years, she has lent her time to museums, parent associations, community events, nonprofits, and more. It has been no different since she joined Chico State eight years ago. Bowman, confidential administrative support in the Division of Information Technology, has been busy working behind the scenes to uplift blood drives, rally support for Joy of Giving, and serve on the Staff Council (STAC).

This May, Bowman was presented the Making a Difference Award during the 2023 Staff Excellence Awards, which honors those whose contributions have greatly improved and impacted the campus community.

With a warm smile at the ready, Bowman is described as caring and a problem solver. In her involvement with STAC, she routinely sought ways to improve or repair programs so they could better serve the University community.

“Mary went above and beyond to serve the campus, the staff, and the larger community,” said nominator Jessie Raeder, administrative support coordinator for STAC.

Besides helping grow the “Ask Me” table efforts to welcome new students and Joy of Giving, Bowman has been a champion for the on-campus blood drives.

She has organized volunteers for the drives to make sure every hour is covered—if there’s a vacancy, Bowman will fill the spot, said Tawnie Peterson, procurement specialist and STAC chair.

“Volunteerism is kind of in my blood,” Bowman said. “I’m the first one to usually step up.”

What advice would you give fellow employees who want to make a positive difference in their own roles/departments?

Get involved and look outside of your job. Look at opportunities on campus for mentoring. Years ago, I mentored an international student here on campus. This past year, I ended up meeting a student through volunteering at our DoIT information table. This young lady was commuting from the Bay Area to finish her senior year in her capstone. We got to talking and I ended up hosting her for the semester and we have become close, and she just graduated and is going to nursing school. So, just go out and volunteer and look for opportunities outside of the job. Staff Council is amazing for that. I got to know so many people through it. It allowed me to meet other staff members outside of my area. You meet people from all over campus.

All the different things STAC does are great opportunities for other staff or faculty to get involved with campus. The “Ask Me” tables, which are out the first week of the year, are a great way to get yourself out there. I think looking outside the box, not just staying in your area, looking to what else is out there. Sometimes you must step out of your comfort zone and do something different.

Who on campus has made a difference on you?

I would say Beverly Gentry (now at Sacramento State). She was my first supervisor on campus, and she was just a great mentor. She was always very encouraging and supportive of everything that I did. She was very influential in getting me to where I am today.

Describe one of your favorite Chico State memories.

Being a part of the Joy of Giving. I have been a part of that program on both sides—on Staff Council and as the coordinator for the Division of IT. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of being there when the social workers come to pick up all the gifts for the families that were served through the program, and just the joy and the tears of the generosity of Chico State—it’s just amazing how this campus comes together and supports families in Butte County. The generosity is overwhelming. The program is near and dear to my heart, and I had the privilege of being a part of that and witnessing what we do as a community here.

A woman wearing a green t-shirt and face mask stands behind a table full of presents with a large sign that reads, "Chico State Staff Council Joy of Giving Program" in front of the table.

What is one thing people don’t know about volunteering in your community or Chico State?

You might build a lifelong friendship by just going out there and meeting somebody that you wouldn’t have otherwise met. I’ve met people working at the “Ask Me” tables that I became friends with and there’s no way I would have met them any other way. It is a way of networking—getting out there and getting to know what other people do and just meeting other people.

What are three things that bring you joy on campus?

The students, which is why I love doing the “Ask Me” tables. The Joy of Giving for sure. And any kind of involvement that I can have with the Wildcat Food Pantry, whether it be donating or finding a resource that I can send their way. We just came across a whole bunch of hats—baseball hats that were in a cupboard—and I called up the pantry to see if they wanted them and I took them over. They were thrilled. So, I would say those three things: the pantry, the “Ask Me” tables, and the Joy of Giving. Those are three things that bring me joy.

If you could bring one famous person (living or not) to deliver a talk on campus, who would it be?

The first person that really comes to mind would be Oprah Winfrey, which a lot of people would say, but she is fascinating and intelligent. She is a strong woman of color, a leader who is not afraid to speak her mind.