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OSU-Tulsa graduate lauded as ‘Rising Star’ for making a difference in young lives

Tim Gowin

As a youth pastor for many years, Tim Gowin has always enjoyed working with teens and young adults.

When he and his family moved to Tulsa 12 years ago, his youth pastor experience landed him a position as Street Outreach Specialist with Youth Services of Tulsa. But he soon discovered that his associate’s degree in Biblical studies from a small private school wouldn’t help him reach a leadership role at a nonprofit organization.

“A lot of feedback I received in my early job interviews was ‘You should go back to school,’” he said. His career goal would require a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.

Gowin took the advice and completed a bachelor’s degree in human development and family science (HDFS) at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa.

Now the vice president of program operations for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma, Gowin has received the OSU College of Human Sciences 2018 Rising Star Award in recognition of his commitment to the HDFS program’s mission to solve human problems and enhance lives.

“Tim is an excellent example of an HDFS graduate,” said Dr. Karina Shreffler, professor of human development and family science and researcher for the Center for Family Resilience at OSU-Tulsa. “Since graduating from OSU-Tulsa, he has truly made a difference in the lives of many of our youngest and most disadvantaged Tulsans.”

Gowin worked with homeless youth living on the Tulsa streets for 10 years, a position and population he loved despite its challenges.

The combination of pursuing his degree at OSU-Tulsa while working for Youth Services enhanced his learning process. The degree program not only addresses the practicalities of meeting needs but sheds light on why those needs exist.

Homeless young adults face significant obstacles such as food insecurity, inadequate job skills and lack of access to medical care. But Gowin learned that mental health issues and early childhood trauma were major contributors to the cause of their homelessness.

“I learned why the youth I worked with invited friends to stay with them in their Youth Services apartment even though it was against the rules,” he said. “They didn’t break the rules on purpose. They desired connection. They wanted their friends around because it made them feel safe and normal.”

OSU-Tulsa professors also allowed space for students to ask questions that related to situations in their own lives or jobs.

“When you are working with people, things rarely go like the PowerPoint presentation. So in class, I could ask specific questions, even about parenting my own children and it felt safe,” Gowin said.

Not only did the HDFS degree help him see the big picture, he learned to use a data-based approach to guide programming and measure outcomes.

“It helped me understand how crucial data was in meeting needs and for showing the impact of the work,” Gowin said. “It’s learning what we’re doing beyond anecdotes or counting numbers of giveaways. We are moving past outputs and focusing on outcomes and impact.”

He enjoys traveling to other Big Brothers Big Sisters offices throughout the state and assisting with creating programming and solving crises.

“For me, life is really about connection,” Gowin said. “From a very young age, I enjoyed helping people. I am happy to be able to provide the support and resources people need to help them get to wherever they’re going.”

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