The religious studies student was an undergraduate at Missouri State for the first time in 1991.
“I wasn’t that successful,” he said. “I wasn’t sure why I was here.”
So Bohlen served in the Navy Reserves for a while, then tried college life out again.
“It still didn’t feel right,” he said. “I just still wasn’t sure why I was here.”
He decided to try driving a big rig “on a lark,” and wound up starting a career as a truck driver. After a few years, though, he found being on the road so much wasn’t great for his family life. By that time, he was married to Mary and father to son Wil.
“I didn’t want to be 250 miles away from home every night,” he said.
He took a desk job, working in logistics for the trucking company.
“It was a great job, but I just wasn’t very happy,” he said.
At one point while working for the trucking company, he was an instructor, teaching new drivers.
“I discovered I enjoyed helping people,” Bohlen said. “That probably planted the seeds of me going back to school.”
He was living in Kansas City during this time, and, with his wife’s encouragement, decided to quit his job and enroll full-time at Johnson County Community College. He took a humanities class there and “I was hooked,” he said.
“At this point I said I’m going back to school to study humanities and this time I’m gonna go all the way. I’m gonna get a PhD,” Bohlen said.
In 2008 he returned to Missouri State, because he had always liked Springfield and wanted a chance to right what he felt were his past academic wrongs. The student who once struggled with a below-average grade point average found himself with 120 hours of 4.0.
Bohlen, along with Wil and Mary, settled in to an historic home in the Rountree neighborhood in Springfield and found they were living the life they wanted for themselves.
Bohlen has completed an undergraduate degree in religious studies and is working on his graduate degree. He expects to finish his master’s in 2012, after completing his thesis on the homeschooling community in the Ozarks. From there, he will go on for a PhD focusing on American religious history.
As for the future beyond getting his doctorate, Bohlen is content to worry about that later, but would love to return to Springfield.
“I hope I can make it work so I can embed myself here somehow,” he said, laughing. “I love it here. It’s home.”