For more than 30 years, Thomas Kowalik has worked tirelessly to enhance the visibility and stature of adult and continuing education, expand adult learning opportunities, reduce barriers, and establish practices to support adult learning.
Since 1991, Kowalik has been Director of Continuing Education and Outreach at Binghamton University of the State University of New York. He began the program by developing a comprehensive array of programs that now serve more than 8,000 adults annually. These activities, which have received state and national attention, include Lyceum, an early U.S. Learning in Retirement Program for adult learners. Also, he was recognized by Vice President Al Gore’s National Project for Reinventing Government for his creative and progressive collaborations to establish adult educational programs enhancing the economic vitality of local counties.
Kowalik received his EdD in adult education in 1989 from Syracuse University. He earned his MEd in counseling from the University of Miami (Florida) in 1976 and his BA in music education from Alfred University in 1975.
Beginning his career with the U.S. Army, Kowalik instructed military and medical professionals to teach adults, as part of a U.S. Army faculty development program. He received the Surgeon General’s Exceptional Instructor’s Award for his work. Following his military service, he worked in the nonprofit sector as an educational broker developing workforce training programs providing adults with the knowledge and skills to secure and retain their jobs. He moved to the for-profit sector and, as a corporate human resource director, developed educational programs for adult workers. Since establishing a highly successful adult and continuing education operation at Binghamton University, he extended his influence within the field by consulting with U.S., Canadian, and Mexican higher education institutions, international business firms, the U.S. government and armed services, community groups, and nearly every sector of the U.S. economy, including manufacturing, high technology, health care, hospitality, tourism, and agribusiness.
Kowalik has conducted 20 grant-funded research projects, published more than 40 articles and reports, and delivered hundreds of presentations, workshops, and classes. He has served the field in leadership roles at the state and national levels—e.g., president of the University Continuing Education Association (1999-2000) and president of the Coalition of Lifelong Learning (2005-2007). His contributions to the field have been recognized through more than 15 national, regional, and statewide awards for teaching, research, program development, leadership, and service.
Kowalik also has consulted with the U.S. military to help develop academic quality measures and assessment tools and to lead teams assessing higher education academic programs at military bases throughout the United States and the Azores. Moreover, he was successful in mainstreaming adult and continuing education into Binghamton University and into the lives of adult students. He has taught as an adjunct professor and served on master’s and doctoral committees at several universities. As a scholar, he developed an instrument that measures student motivation that has been utilized at more than a dozen higher education institutions throughout North America.
Perhaps the single greatest contribution Kowalik has made to the field is his ability to collaboratively lead groups and share his vision for adult and continuing education. This vision expresses the unlimited possibilities that can coalesce and energize national and statewide organizations to better meet the needs of adult learners. He has demonstrated the ability to engage professionals from all walks of life while capitalizing on the unique perspective of each individual. His philosophy of collaboration and shared decision making has encouraged and motivated others to join efforts to achieve remarkable results.