Office Phone: (540) 432-4153
Main Campus, Harrisonburg
Office Location: CC 206D
Spencer Cowles in the news:
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore my hope is in Him.” (Lamentations 3:26)"
Dr. Cowles’ background is in commercial banking, where he worked for one of the largest commercial banks in New England. One of the most fascinating and fulfilling aspects of his banking career was working with entrepreneurs who had a better idea for doing something and who left secure careers to start a successful business of their own.
During a recent sabbatical he redeployed his banking skills in microfinance, working in Washington, D.C. as an investment consultant and acting director of investments at MicroVest Capital Management, a firm that raises funds from commercial investors and invests them in microfinance institutions worldwide.
Dr. Cowles’ primary undergraduate teaching responsibilities include business ethics and strategy, international business, and an introductory survey of business. He also teaches a course entitled Comparative Perspectives on Business and Society in EMU’s MBA program, which examines business ethics and policy at the level of the employee, the firm, and the macro economy. As quoted in an article on the teaching of ethics in business schools published in the Daily News Record (3/27/10), Dr. Cowles stated, “The free market system is based on trust. It’s not a peripheral issue. It’s central to the free market.”
He has also led a variety of cross-cultural programs in Japan, Europe, Jamaica, and the Navajo Nation, many of them geared toward his interests in international business and development.
Dr. Cowles currently chairs the Department of Business and Economics and plays an active role in university governance. As Department Chair he is a practicing manager, continually involved in the types of actions and decisions concerning people, resources, and policy that most middle managers in a business–or any type of organization–are involved in. He has served on a number of committees, including the Faculty Senate, that take part in university governance, which includes formulating policy, making strategic decisions about the direction of the university, and developing new initiatives.
Doctor of Philosophy
Social Foundations of Education, with an emphasis on Anthropology of Education
Curry School of Education
University of Virginia
Master of Business Administration
Concentration in Finance
Master of Theological Studies
Concentration in New Testament
Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary
South Hamilton, MA
Bachelor of Arts
Major in English
Cowles, S. (2013). Book review, The Invisible handcuffs of Capitalism.The Anthropology of Work Review.Vol.XXXIV, No.1
Cowles, S. (2011). Book review, The Anthropology of Labor Unions. American Ethnologist. Vol.38(3). pp.590-591
Cowles, S. (2008). Microfinance, then and now. The Marketplace. Vol.38, Issue 3,
Cowles, S. (2007). The promises and challenges of social movement unionism: A
review essay. The Anthropology of Work Review. Vol.XXVIII, No.1, pp.14-18.
Cowles, S. (2005). Creating a third way in minority education: Transformative community in the Old Order Mennonite Church. The Anthropology and Education Quarterly, Vol.36, No.4, pp. 386-404.
Cowles, S. (2004). A reconsideration of Emile Durkheim’s The evolution of educational thought: Lectures on the formation and development of secondary education in France. Educational Studies, Vol.35, No.3, pp. 271-76.
Managers and leaders: Are they different? Revisiting the debate
Presented at the Christian Business Faculty Association annual meeting, Bourbannais, IL, October 2013
Identity formation in a two room Old Order Mennonite schoolhouse
Presented at the American Anthropological Association annual meetings in Chicago, November 2003.
Beyond the pale: the limits of multi-culturalism
Presented at the American Anthropological Association annual meetings in New Orleans, November 2002.
Stopping in time: Interpreting Old Order Mennonite praxis using Durkheim’s theory of social change
(Invited new scholar poster presentation) Presented at the American Anthropological Association annual meetings in
Washington, DC, November 2001.
Educating for identity and resistance: Situated learning among the Old Order Mennonites
Presented at the Comparative & International Education Society annual meetings in Washington, DC, March 2001.
The cultural implications of laissez-faire capitalism
Presented at the Comparative & International Education Society annual meetings in San Antonio, March 2000
Competitive advantage in the smaller enterprise
Jubilee: The biblical mandate for the economic enterprise
Realizing our vision: What do we really want to be?
Presented at the Mennonite Association of Credit Unions annual retreat in
Harrisonburg, VA, September 1997
The America that can say ‘yes’
Presented to the International Business Forum in Sapporo, Japan, January 1994
The international business imperative
Presented at the 1992 MEDA annual convention in Denver, October 1992
Entrepreneurs in paradise: A report on micro-entrepreneurs in Kingston, Jamaica
Presented to the Shenandoah Valley MEDA Chapter, October 1989
Adult Sunday School teacher, Finance Committee chair, usher at Park View Mennonite Church
Member of the leadership team at The Table, an emergent church in the Virginia Mennonite Conference
Supervisory Board, Park View Federal Credit Union (2001 to 2007)
Enterprise Development Committee, Gemeinschaft Home
Eastern Mennonite High School (1995 to 2005) – chair, Finance Committee (1996 to 2005)
Junior MYF Sponsor, Community Mennonite Church (2003 to 2005)
Mennonite Economic Development Associates, Harrisonburg Chapter (1989 to 1997)
Place of Peace (1991 to 1996)
Adult Sunday School Teacher, Harrisonburg Mennonite Church (1992-1996)
American Anthropological Association
Christian Business Faculty Association
Mennonite Economic Development Associates
Senior Seminar – “By the sweat of our brow”: Work, Calling, and Purpose
Campus Ministries Council (current)
Academic Council (current)
Fall Conference Planning Committee (current)
Faculty Senate, President (2010-2011)
Provost Search Committee (2007 to 2008)
Dean’s Committee (2007 to 2008)
Mutual Aid Committee (2005-2007)
Lilly Grant Steering Committee (2001-2007)
Prioritization Steering Committee (2005 to 2006)
Assembly/Senate Committee, chair (2004 to 2006)
Fall Conference Planning Committee, chair (2004 to 2005)
SGA Faculty Representative (Fall, 2003)
General Education Committee (2000 to 2003)
Campus Development Committee (2001 to 2004)
Academic Council (1994 to 1998, co-chair for 1995-96 academic year)
Task Force for the Fine Arts (1995 to 1998)
Dean’s Committee (1995-1997)
Assessment Committee (1994 to 1997)
Faculty Evaluation Task Force (1997)
Work Study Program Task Force (1995)
Strategic Planning Council (1989-1993)
College Logo Task Force (1991)