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Active-duty grad awarded funds toward master’s completion

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mark J. Bowling, a 2015 Pennsylvania College of Technology graduate, was recently awarded a $2,500 scholarship from the Association of the Army for use toward completing a master’s degree in engineering management.

Bowling, who earned a bachelor’s degree in technology management from Penn College, is on active duty supporting the Army Reserves (known as Active/Guard Reserve). He is assigned to the Department of Public Works of the 99th Readiness Division. The 99th DPW, located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, is responsible for all Army Reserve facilities in the 13-state region from Virginia to Maine. For his first three years with the 99th DPW, he served as the deputy chief of operations, helping to manage and maintain 600 facilities spread across 300 sites and to execute a $40 million annual maintenance and repair budget.

Chief  Warrant Officer 3 Mark J. BowlingLast month, he was transferred to a section of the department’s directorate known as DPW PLANS. The section oversees and manages military construction, facility master planning and real property in the 13-state region.

The central Pennsylvania native’s educational journey began with an associate degree in engineering technology from South Hills School of Business and Technology.

“I chose (Penn College’s) technology management (now applied management) degree program  because it was a two + two program, which accepted transfer credits from associate degree programs from other schools,” Bowling said. “It was helpful to me to take the credits earned from South Hills and apply them to my B.S. degree at Penn College to shorten the amount of time to complete the degree. In addition, having an engineering technology degree and adding a technology management degree made logical sense to me.

“The other advantage of the technology management degree through Penn College was that it was offered entirely online. During the period of my study, I was living and working near Pittsburgh, so studying remotely worked well for me in and around my civilian career and Reserve obligation.”

As a civilian, he was working as an engineer technician for a firm that specialized in cast-in-place and precast/prestressed concrete construction.

“At this point, I had worked in this field for about 10 years,” he said. He was also a traditional “drilling” Army Reserve soldier.

“In 2013, halfway through my study at Penn College, I was deployed to Kuwait with an Army Reserve Engineer Company,” he said. “The majority of our unit stayed in Kuwait and performed its mission there, but because of my experience with concrete construction and my rank as a warrant officer, I was pushed forward as a detachment officer in charge to Regional Command North Afghanistan to construct stormwater drainage structures on a forward operating base used for retrograde operations.”

The detachment comprised about 45 soldiers from various construction trades, Bowling explained, and spent about six months placing more than 1,600 cubic yards of concrete for culverts, bridges, tent pads, etc. Because of his exceptional work during the deployment, a colleague nominated him for the Army Engineer Association Best Warrant Officer Award.

Bowling was presented the award, which recognizes the top engineer warrant officer in the Army – active or reserve – in September 2014.

“I didn’t serve with him in Afghanistan, but I can tell you this much: His actions in Afghanistan caught the attention of general grade officers through his devotion, dedication and leadership abilities,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Carlos Jimenez, 412th Theater Engineer Command, command chief warrant officer, when presenting the award.

Because the award is competitive amongst all branches, Reserve and active duty, Jimenez called the recognition “a monumental and major milestone for his unit, the 412th TEC and the Army Reserve.”

Upon return from his deployment, Bowling finished his Penn College degree, graduating magna cum laude and as a member of Alpha Chi National College Honor Society.

“Not long thereafter, I was offered to come on active duty supporting the Army Reserve,” Bowling explained. “To do this, I had to leave my civilian job in Pittsburgh as a construction project manager and move my family to Cranston, Rhode Island, for my first assignment.”

That assignment was with Delta Company of the 249th Engineer Battalion, which is part of the Army Corps of Engineers, filling the roles of platoon leader and executive officer. He spent two years in Rhode Island before being transferred to the 99th DPW.

It was after that transfer that he decided to go back to school to use the remainder of his Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to complete a master’s degree.

“It was a personal goal of mine,” he explained.

He completed an engineering leadership and innovation management graduate certificate through the Penn State World Campus, then transferred those credits into the university’s Master of Engineering Management program. He has three classes remaining in the online program – with an expectation to graduate in Summer 2021 – and reports a 3.86 GPA.

“This was important to me, because I wanted to finish my master’s degree while my children are still young,” he said. “My wife, Lisa, and I have a 6-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son.”

“Although the Army strongly promotes lifelong learning, the Post 9/11 GI Bill only covers four years of college education,” Bowling explained, “Therefore, at some point, most people pursuing a master’s degree will need to pay for part of it out-of-pocket. I recently consumed my remaining Veterans Affairs entitlement but did not want to take out student loans. The Army does offer tuition assistance, but it is only $250 per credit, which doesn’t go very far. Unfortunately, scholarships for graduate students are difficult to find.

“I belong to a few professional organizations, such as the Army Engineer Association, the Society of American Military Engineer (SAME) and the Association of the United States Army (AUSA),” he added. “When I was reading an AUSA magazine I came across an advertisement for scholarships which didn’t exclude graduate students.”

Bowling applied, which included securing a recommendation from his Penn College adviser, Chip D. Baumgardner, associate professor of business administration/management. “I was happy to learn (in September) that I was selected for a Completed Coursework Scholarship” in the amount of $2,500. This will help me to pay for the three remaining courses that I have.”

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