Dr. Bob Pavlowsky has always viewed Missouri State as a place where opportunities are readily available. As a young faculty member, he saw research opportunities in environmental areas and was encouraged to conduct research in areas of importance to the region.
Pavlowsky received his undergraduate degree in wildlife biology and it wasn’t until taking a graduate level class in geomorphology that he truly became interested in geography.
“Being very broadly trained in science is not always perceived as good thing, particularly in academe. I agree to a point, but with my interests in environmental systems and the ways that humans interact with them you need to be able to generalize and work across several fields,” said Pavlowsky. “I think that’s what attracted me to geography.”
Pavlowsky’s unique background makes him the perfect person to coordinate the Master of Natural and Applied Science program for those with a geography, geology and planning emphasis. He is also the graduate director of the Master of Science in Geospatial Sciences in Geography and Geology program in the department. Pavlowsky advises several graduate students each year in both graduate programs.
“The real positive of the MNAS program is it allows students the freedom to aim their studies directly at a specific interest or career,” said Pavlowsky. “We have the resources that can help get them there.”
“The MNAS program allows the faculty advisor a lot more flexibility to put more science graduate students out there,” said Pavlowsky. “It gives us more options to meet science students’ needs as well as the demands of the professional world.”
Inspired by the support he received from the University to conduct research and by the need for a water quality research center in the region, Pavlowsky became the first director of the Ozarks Environmental and Water Resources Institute (OEWRI) in 2005.
OEWRI is mainly devoted to helping improve waterquality throughout southwest Missouri and Arkansas, but also completes a few projects outside of the region.
Pavlowsky secures grants each year in order to keep the institute running. Depending on the funding available, Pavlowsky could have four to eight graduate students working on their thesis projects and conducting research at the institute, in addition to the OWERI staff who provide much needed support.
“We offer a unique learning environment by linking multidisciplinary projects with graduate education, on the job training and research experience that few students can get at other universities.”
MNAS students have benefited from the research opportunities that OWERI provides. The goal of the institute is much like that of a MNAS graduate student: combining the sciences to conduct successful water quality research in Ozark watersheds.
There is also an opportunity to work with others to leverage the limited funds available for solving environmental problems. “Our work day typically involves leaving the office or laboratory to work with state and federal agencies, research partners, watershed groups and students from other departments or universities,” said Pavlowsky.
OEWRI has been vital in preparing students for careers in the environment or for continuing their education to the doctoral level. The center extends its reach from helping small towns to large cities and the region as a whole. This, Pavlowsky says, is all a part of OEWRI and MSU functioning as a resource for the community.
“I think this is an instance where the community should be proud because we help support community initiatives,” said Pavlowsky. “We help train students for the community and beyond, and we are recognized nationally as being a scientific unit that does good work.”
Pavlowsky credits the professors he had as a student for his passion in helping students from all academic areas succeed. “I found that the most enthusiastic and effective teachers I had in college and during my graduate studies were also good researchers,” said Pavlowsky.
“One of the key things in my life is that I had some really great professors that took the time to make me work hard,” said Pavlowsky. “So I always try to give time for students because they gave time for me. I always try to challenge my students to do a lot more than they normally would,” said Pavlowsky. “It is the extra effort that can make a study exceptional and, at the same time, build student confidence leading to career success.”