Brouwer Brings Empathy, Experience to Adjunct Role
Ron Brouwer has spent a good deal of his life cooped up in close quarters having served on three submarines, a Naval hospital, Officer Training Command, and two Naval branch health clinics during his career in the United States Navy. These days, he enjoys the relative freedom of teaching remotely as an adjunct in Bellevue University’s Healthcare Management and Healthcare Administration programs.
He’s excelling at it, as well, having been named a 2019 recipient of the University’s Lou Soukup Award for outstanding adjunct faculty members. The Buzz spoke with Brouwer recently about how his military career impacted his life and how his own early academic struggles help him empathize with his current students.
What do you enjoy most about teaching as an adjunct at Bellevue University?
What I enjoy the most about being an adjunct for Bellevue University is interacting with the students. Like many of my students, I received my undergraduate and master’s degrees while working full time on active duty, so I understand many of the issues that come about due to being a full-time student and a full-time employee at the same time. I also enjoy the fact that with all of the knowledge and experience that many of our students have, I continue to learn, as well.
How did you first learn about the University and how did you get involved with teaching as an adjunct here?
One of my peers at the Naval Hospital Beaufort (in South Carolina), Tony Geron, told me about an opportunity at Bellevue University where he was just brought on as an adjunct. I took that opportunity and applied through Dr. Mike Freel and was hired in early 2014. Prior to Naval Hospital Beaufort, I was a course supervisor and instructor for the Naval Officer Candidate School (OCS) and Officer Development School (ODS).I missed the interaction with students and I thought maybe Bellevue (University) could fill that void. I was correct.
What was your reaction to winning the Lou Soukup Award?
When Dr. Freel let me know that I was a nominee I was surprised because I tend to be pretty hard on myself and feel there's always room for improvement. My philosophy has always been to worry about my staff/students and their well-being before my own, so recognition for myself is never in my mind. I was extremely grateful of the nomination and even more so that I was selected.
What prompted you to join the Navy and what are your biggest takeaways from your military career?
This story is actually a little embarrassing for an educator to admit. Upon graduation from high school, I attempted my freshman year of college at Tri-State University (now Trine University) in Angola, Indiana. At 18 and away from home for the first time, I probably could have hit the books a little harder because an "F" and two "C's" later I found myself at the Navy Recruiting office. I volunteered for submarine service and began my enlisted career in the Submarine Fleet as a conventional machinist mate. I commissioned in the Medical Service Corps in 2006 as a healthcare administrator and my biggest takeaway from both my enlisted and commissioned time is to not forget where you come from and take care of your sailors, and you will be taken care of in return.
What was it like to serve on a submarine?
I was actually on three submarines: The USS West Virginia SSBN 736, USS Maine SSBN 741 and USS Salt-Lake-City SSN 716. Being in submarines was one of the greatest times of my adult life. The officers and crew are roughly 110 to 130 people and become some of the closest family anyone could ever have. Being underwater for any length of time kind of forces people to get to know one another very well. The relationships made in the submarine community will likely last the rest of my days. On the boats it’s cramped, smelly, busy, fun, hot, cold, rewarding, and boring all at the same time.
Who have been some of your biggest supporters of your academic and career endeavors?
My wife, Jackie, and our kids, Krista, Thomas, and Nicholas, have had to move with me and put up with my attitudes at time but did so willingly and without complaining too much. They have been there to support whatever my career asked through 16 deployments that included a Western Pacific tour and a year at Guantanamo Bay Cuba with the Joint Medical Group Joint Task Force.