BGSU’s HIED program allows Ardy Gonyer to ‘evolve as a professional’

Higher Education Administration doctoral degree provides tools for addressing mental health among students

By Robin Stanton Gerrow

The evolution of beauty pageant contestant to a world-champion karate kid to a doctoral candidate, might sound like sound like a stretch for some, but not for Howard "Ardy" Gonyer.

Gonyer, graduating from Bowling Green State University with his Ph.D. from the Higher Education Administration (HIED) program, had a childhood full of experiences designed to help him be a success as an adult, whatever path he chose.

"My mother always made sure I had experiences that would teach me something," he said. "She entered me into beauty pageants as a child so I wouldn't be afraid to get up in front of people and talk. When I was 6 or 7, I started taking karate so I could learn discipline and how to set and reach goals. Both of them worked."

Both karate — he was a three-time world champion — and his study abroad experiences at BGSU made a big impact on his choice of career.

"When I was in karate, we had the opportunity to travel to Mexico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica for competitions, so I was exposed to other cultures, and learned about social justice and poverty," Gonyer said. "It helped me understand inequity and taught me how I can make the world a better place.

"As a student in the HIED program, I was able to go on a study abroad trip to the European Union, which gave me a new perspective on education. That experience really opened my eyes to looking at students and professionals in a different light, and how lucky we are to have the educational system we have in the United States."

A Bowling Green native, Gonyer earned his undergraduate degree from BGSU, living on campus and being involved in everything from the honors program to peer health education and serving as a resident advisor. Although he started out wanting to be a medical doctor, he decided to major in psychology.

"I've always known that I wanted to be in a helping profession, and psychology gave me options in counseling and ministry," he said.

He left Bowling Green to attend Ohio University for his master's degree. After spending several years working in health promotions and student conduct at OU, he knew it was time to take the last step to reach his educational goals.

"BGSU just rose to the top of the list of the programs," Gonyer said. "I really liked the cohort model, and moving back to Bowling Green gave me the opportunity to reconnect with the community."

Working at OU gave Gonyer a lot of experience in student affairs, but he has focused much of his time at BGSU working with the academic side, primarily through his assistantship with the Educators in Context and Community (ECCO) learning community.

"This has really given me a new view of how to work with students," he said. "Working with student mental health issues and being part of their support system has helped me understand why this work is so important, and it has helped me evolve as a professional. It has given me a sense of both where students came from, as well as where they are going. When I was working in student conduct, issues were much more black and white, but this experience has helped me see the gray areas and what students need to succeed. It isn't about coddling them, but helping them through some tough times."