Faculty Spotlight | Sharon Stowers
A distinctive force, Dr. Sharon Stowers combines specialties as a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and anthropologist – a combination so unique she’s already made a lasting mark on Harford, the state of Maryland and her profession. Earning a B.S. in Food and Nutrition, an M.Ed. in Nutrition Education, an M.A. in Applied Anthropology and a Ph.D. in Anthropology sets Dr. Stowers apart as an authority in both subjects. Beginning her long career in public health, Dr. Stowers quickly discovered a need for scrutiny in the politics of nutrition while working with immigrant populations. She began to develop community-based health and nutritional anthropology projects focused on the Caribbean, El Salvador and her home state of Massachusetts. Her unique work was quickly recognized and, seeing a need to address structural issues and to represent underserved populations, she began a consulting company in Washington, DC focused on nutrition educational services. This led to training programs, projects, lectures and new curriculum for several nonprofit agencies and government institutions. She participated in various legislative initiatives and media campaigns to create awareness about food guides, malnutrition, and cultural understanding of food. The unfair “policy” of food and nutrition struck a chord with Dr. Stowers and guided her focus to socio-cultural and bio-cultural anthropology work, combined with her nutritional science background – a specialty so rare, there are only a handful of professionals in the country who hold credentials in both nutrition and anthropology.
Making her way from DC, Dr. Stowers took an adjunct position at Towson University. Bringing with her a wealth of knowledge and experience, she arrived at Harford in 2003 and hasn’t looked back. “I was totally committed to teaching at a community college. I myself attended a community college, both of my parents went to a community college. I think they’re fabulous places; I always wanted to work at one. I love my job.” Being a member of Harford’s faculty has afforded her flexibility, opportunities, and tremendous support for her ideas and innovations, which Sharon believes she could not have gotten anywhere else.
Teaching both sociology and anthropology courses at Harford, including Sociology 101, Honors Sociology, Physical Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology and Independent Study courses, Dr. Stowers engages her students in a wide variety of projects and research. Whatever she’s working on, she involves her students in to encourage and promote their work, giving them chances to hone their research skills while they develop their understanding of both the research itself and why it’s important. This includes her work with the College’s on-campus historical property, the Hays-Heighe House, which is now a museum and learning resource for the community. As project coordinator for the House’s extensive restoration project, Sharon worked closely with the administration and architects, collaborating with museum professionals, providing historic input and oversight advocating the historic integrity of the restoration, and curating the inaugural exhibit, Made by Hand – all while involving her students in the process. Some of those same students have gone on to earn advanced degrees in museum studies and archeology, and now work in the museum sector. Her work with our Honors Program students is especially rewarding, and she enjoys supporting her independent studies students and seeing their potential. “I like having a pulse on student concerns because in Sociology we look at social problems. I love to incorporate experiential learning in the classroom and get students to expand their ideas – this is the anthropologist in me,” says Stowers.
More opportunities followed with the Hays-Heighe House when she became the principle investigator of an ethnographic research project and exhibition funded by the Maryland State Arts Council for the Welsh community in the greater Harford County area. Continuing to give our students a chance to develop necessary skills, Sharon enlisted the help of her students as research assistants, analyzing data and archiving material, and taking her anthropology students on an archeological excavation at a known Harford County Welsh village historical site. The work eventually led to an on-campus Welsh Heritage Day. Sharon is extremely proud of her work for the Hays-Heighe House, for which she has received numerous awards and remains on the advisory board today.
Not only is Sharon a huge fan of Harford Community College – “a perfect place for an anthropologist” – for its involvement in the community, but she’s also a proponent of Harford County. She truly enjoys being a liaison between the College and community leaders. Her work bringing special events, lectures and programming to greater Harford County led to Dr. Stowers’ appointment as HCC’s first Scholar-in-Residence in 2018. As the inaugural Scholar-in-Residence, she developed and continues managing all aspects of the Gathering at the Community Table (GCT) project: a county-wide initiative to organize agricultural producers and the community around issues facing our local food system. This initiative has grown rapidly and partners with a wide range of organizations within and beyond Harford County, including Harford County Government, Harford County Public Schools, and several nonprofit agencies to reach local, regional, and even national audiences through a new Harford Farm Finder GIS Map, face-to-face and nationally broadcast symposiums, and legislative initiatives. Supported through grants by the Harford County Government Department of Agriculture and guided by the Farmers and Community Partnership of Harford County, chaired by Dr. Stowers, GCT had and continues to have an impact at the local, state, and national levels, including affecting local and state agriculture policy despite the global pandemic.
Her most recent traveling exhibition, The History of Harford County Agriculture, featured displays set in various community, organizational and college venues. Dr. Stowers also collaborated with Harford County Public Schools, especially North Harford High School, to involve students in projects about Harford County agriculture. HarfordTV featured Dr. Stowers and her work on their Harford MagaScene series. In addition, HarfordTV broadcasted Rooted in Agriculture last spring, a production written, produced, and directed by Dr. Stowers that highlighted Harford County’s unique history as the birthplace of the modern sustainable agriculture movement and its national leadership in soil conservation and farmland preservation. Dr. Stowers and the Farmers and Community Partnership of Harford County are scheduled to be honored by the National Society of Descendants of American Farmers at the USDA in June 2022. For her extensive efforts on the GCT project and contributions to the agricultural community, Sharon received awards from the Harford Farm Bureau in 2019 and Soil Conservation Districts of Maryland in 2020.
Dr. Stowers’ latest symposium “Anyone Can Garden!” a half-day event at the end of March, will focus on the ease of creating simple, beautiful, and healthy gardens. The event will bring agricultural experts and the community together to celebrate and learn about gardening in Harford County. A locally-sourced breakfast and a gardening marketplace with local vendors will be among the offerings. The event reached capacity shortly after its announcement.
A true educator, Dr. Stowers has received numerous awards and grants and written research publications, books, and articles in her combined fields. She’s been invited to speak and present at national and international conferences. Her work at Harford is vast as she’s presented with fellow faculty on many occasions, has served as guest lecturer and panel member, and has worked on various committees including the Hays-Heighe House Advisory Committee, Academic Appeals Committee, Honors Program Committee, Faculty Search Committee, and Institutional Review Board Committee. Sharon is a standing board member with the Archaeology Society of Northern Chesapeake. Her professional affiliations include the American Anthropological Association, Council on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, the American Dietetic Association, and the Small Museum Association.
To offset her intense workload and ongoing projects, Sharon takes time to enjoy art. She’s passionate about it, taking in art exhibitions when she can, listening to podcasts about art and art history; even dabbling in creating her own Haiku poetry and correlating drawings. She also takes time to dive into mystery novels and crime shows. In her own words: “I’m curious about everything!”
In the words of the late nineteenth century novelist and poet J. G. Holland, "The mind grows by what it feeds on." Both educator and advocate, Dr. Sharon Stowers truly gives us food for thought, feeds our students with knowledge, and knows the impact and importance of growing young minds. Harford is honored to have this inspiring professional as part of our outstanding faculty.