Ernie Owens: A Builder of Community

If you spend more than a few minutes with Dr. Ernie Owens, be prepared to talk motorcycles.

The Opus College of Business professor attended his first motorcycle convention in 2001. Since then, he’s not only learned how to ride, but he’s also spent countless hours tinkering away, building antique bikes in his garage.

Owens, an avid motorcycle rider, is currently restoring this Indian motorcycle in his garage workshop. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

“And that’s how I can buy more motorcycles,” Owens explained to students in his MGMT 384 project management course.

For Owens, building motorcycles is a passion, but he is also on a mission to build a more welcoming community for all.

“Diversity and inclusion to me is not just those words,” Owens said. “It’s how do you make that real? How do I use my role as a professor to produce leaders who take those ideas and operationalize it?”

A project management expert, Owens has taught undergraduate, graduate and professional development courses at St. Thomas since 1990. He’s used much of his time in the classroom to build relationships between budding project managers and leaders serving disadvantaged communities.

When Father Larry Snyder was developing the Center for the Common Good at St. Thomas, he took Owens’ MGMT 384 course and relied on students to help plot the center’s future. When a new system was needed to connect the campus community with volunteer opportunities, once again Owens and his students stepped in to help create the Tommies Together Volunteer Center.

“Dr. Ernie has been really influential in the shaping of the university kind of quietly behind the scenes,” Kelly Sardon-Garrity, associate director for the Center for Common Good, said. “So, there he is, leaving his mark on not only the Center for the Common Good, but our whole volunteer effort on campus.”

Professor Ernest "Ernie" Owens
Professor Ernie Owens has taught project management at St. Thomas for more than two decades, bringing together leaders across the community in each of his courses. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

A Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fellow, Owens also serves on the University Senate, University Faculty Affairs Committee, as well as the Black Faculty and Staff Alliance.

“The diversity and inclusion work that we’re doing makes a difference in people’s lives in terms of their income streams and their family structures,” Owens said. “We need to embrace this work in a way that’s meaningful. Something that goes beyond a plan but is real work where we are getting into those collaborative spaces.”