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University of Michigan School of Information


Alumni Snapshot: John Bowen

Headshot of John Bowen. Master of Science in Information, 2002. Director of Archives at Cleveland Clinic.

John Bowen

MSI 2002

Focus in Archives and Records Management


I am the director of archives at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit, multi-specialty academic medical center combining world class clinical care with an outstanding patient experience. In my position, I am responsible for overseeing the archives and providing guidance on records management and the retention process. I am also in charge of our emeritus office, which works to ensure significant retired staff members stay connected with the organization.


UMSI Skills


General archival principles that I learned at SI are the ones that stick out to me. These standards are fundamental to the work that we do at the clinic archives. One of the most wonderful parts of SI was all the different people I went to school with. When I attended SI, there were four specializations: Archives and records management, library sciences, user interface, and information economics. 

Throughout my career I have been responsible for licensing images. I still remember the discussion of the “marginal cost of Tori Amos CDs” in one of our foundational classes and it has informed many decisions in my career. SI 501 (contextual inquiry and consulting foundations) was also a memorable class. It was such a great reflection of reality when working with a large organization, working with groups, getting things done and having a client. Not everyone in my profession works in large organizations but I’ve worked in those spaces for all of my career. Those experiences really helped in growing in my career. 


Motivation for Pursuing Information


From the time I was very young, I spent a lot of time in the 900s section of the library. Then in high school I started working in the public library and I really enjoyed the work. As a young adult I worked in the hotel and restaurant business for a number of years, but the hours and schedule were not sustainable long-term. I went back to school as what was then called a “non-traditional student,” which just meant I was older than the kids just out of high school. 

I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and my original intention was to teach history in college. After discussing job prospects with my professors and instructors I decided I needed options. I attended a job fair on campus to explore different prospective career opportunities. The School of Information was there and I learned about the archives and records management specialization. They obviously did a great job selling the program as I specifically came to UMSI for the archives program.


Favorite UMSI Memory


I have a lot of wonderful memories from my time at UMSI so it’s difficult to pick just one. The one that first comes to mind is about a friend I had made through the program. His name was Eimo Kaku and he was an incredibly interesting guy who had had all kinds of life experiences and he came to SI for even more enrichment. One evening when leaving class we came across a number of people salsa dancing in the building lobby. Immediately, Eimo joined in. I had known him for a better part of a year at that point but I did not know that he had actually been a professional salsa dancer and had performed with many big names at the time. He just wowed the crowd and everyone applauded when they were done. This moment really reflected the diversity at UMSI. There were so many different people with so many different experiences and interests at UMSI. I learned a lot from the people I ended up going to class with.

Another special memory came early in my first semester, when I raised my hand in one of our large foundation classes. Even though I was in the back row of and it was my first time participating, Professor Michael Cohen called me by my name without looking at any references. I remember feeling like I was part of something special.


Advice for Students


One of the nice things of SI that I learned about was network computing and file management. While I did not get a computer science degree, I learned enough to sit down with IT people and not get lost in the conversation. Even if you are not an expert in a field it is important to have an understanding to truly participate in planning. Also, if you are willing and able to relocate there will be more opportunities to advance in your career. Lastly, be kind. It pays dividends personally and professionally.