Professor says students' success is his reward
by Susan King
His passion for teaching began with a hunger for learning.
Mowa was born and raised in rural Zambia, a nation in south central Africa. His father and mother, born during British colonial rule, were only able to obtain sixth- and third-grade educations, respectively.
The first of 10 children to pursue higher education, Mowa earned a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Zambia in 1989.
After graduation, Mowa was hired as chief veterinary officer for the Zambian government in his home province of Luapula, a region about the size of North Carolina.
His primary responsibilities were livestock disease control, operating a small animal clinic and overseeing the work of 200 employees in the seven-district province.
A year later, Mowa moved to Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, "because my sweetheart was there."
Ennie Hamoya, an economist and now a registered nurse, became his wife and during the years the couple had three children: Nonde, Shoma and Mowa.
In Lusaka, Mowa was hired to practice in a clinic operated by a pharmaceutical company.
Subsequently, he served as manager of the 8,000-acre Chaminuka Game Ranch, the largest African wildlife preserve in Zambia.
The ranch was home to a variety of African wildlife, including lions, cheetahs, hyenas, zebras, giraffes and elephants.
Following these years of veterinary practice, Mowa went on to earn a master's degree in veterinary anatomy at Scotland's Glasgow University and later, a doctoral degree in reproductive biology at the Hokkaido University Veterinary School in Japan.
While pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship in neurobiology at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown, Ohio, Mowa saw an advertisement for a faculty member who could promote the concept of diversity as integral to learning.
Mowa applied for the position and, in 2005, he joined the faculty at Appalachian.
Since coming to Appalachian, Mowa has been awarded more than $1 million in grants and has published more than 20 research articles and two book chapters.
His new book, "Mapping Cells Expressing Estrogen Receptors: Female and Male Reproductive Organs of Developing and Adult Rodents," was published in October.
Mowa's current research focuses on understanding how blood vessels influence the birth of premature babies and testing the effectiveness of natural products to treat this serious national, state and regional obstetrical problem.
In 2011, Mowa's commitment to mentoring students in research led him to develop a highly sought-after clinical shadowing summer study abroad program in South Africa for pre-health students. Biology graduate student Jordan Estes went on the first trip.
"When I started graduate school in the fall of 2010, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. Because my interest was in reproductive biology, Dr. Mowa became my adviser. He really took a chance on me. The South Africa trip solidified my desire to enter the health-care field. I've applied to a physician assistants program, and Dr. Mowa was definitely my guiding inspiration," Estes said.
Mowa is in the process of facilitating a similar program for pre-vet students.
Mowa's passion for student mentoring is influenced by his strong belief that, "one of the world's greatest misfortunes is the degree to which the talent of young people is either wasted or unexploited. The greatest duty of any civilized society is to help discover and develop the unique talent that each child brings to the table. Being a part of this and making a positive difference in the lives of students, as a professor, is a great honor and is my real pay."
In an endeavor to keep students interested in science careers, Mowa mentors local high school students through the AppalSEED Academy afterschool science program, which he founded.
He has secured more than $300,000 in external funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
Mowa said his greatest moments of excitement at Appalachian come when he sees his students "discover their real potential, gain self-confidence and wings, fly into the real world, make a difference and live life in its fullness."
To learn more about Mowa's research, visit http://biology.appstate.edu/faculty-staff/102.