Dr. David Howell hails from the West Coast. He grew up in Seattle, earned his degrees in Washington and Alaska, and then went to work for the high-tech industry. “So, moving to Wisconsin 15 years ago was a big jump,” he said. He soon discovered, however, there’s a lot to love about the Midwest. “I can walk into the grocery store and start up a conversation. And that’s not weird.”

Creating discourse is what Howell enjoys—at the grocery store, through his writing, and especially in the classroom.

“The interesting thing about engineering is that there are correct answers. In my class, I ask questions where there are no correct answers,” said Howell. Engendering that type of thought process is important, he said, for when students have to search for solutions to difficult problems in the workplace.

Howell earned his Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies at Washington State University, and then went to work in private industry for eight years. “I spent two years trying to help create an advertising engine for Microsoft,” he said. “It paid really well. I learned a lot, but at the end of the day, I didn’t believe in the product.” He eventually took the leap, and the pay cut, back into academia. “But now I have purpose.” 

As a professor in the Humanities, Social Science and Communication Department, Howell teaches courses such as Ethics and Composition, and has gotten to create courses such as Creative Non-fiction and Eastern Philosophy.

He likes that his humanities classes are able to dial in to what the MSOE Mindset and KEEN Foundation are trying to achieve with students. “In my ethics classes, I’ll ask students ‘What’s your contribution going to be?’ Because they’re so focused on becoming an engineer, they may not have thought about the implications on a societal level as to what it means to change the world through your career.”

Howell served as MSOE's Chair for Servant-Leadership for six years and has presented at a number of conferences on servant-leadership. He loves helping students take what they’ve learned inside the classroom to better the local community, as well as leading students on service projects to Kenya, Northern India, and Uganda in 2019.

Howell said he’s excited to leverage what he’s learned in servant-leadership in his role as a CREATE Faculty Fellow. CREATE is a vehicle to break down walls, he said, improving not just the classroom experience but the whole collegiate experience. “We want to work with everyone on campus.”

The implementation of faculty development through CREATE is key, said Howell. “The MSOE Mindset is not a useful tool unless it’s applied. We’re going to have employees whose job description targets the implementation of the Mindset.”

Howell lives with his wife, a holistic veterinarian, in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. His son is studying theater in Oregon, and his daughter has a bachelor’s degree in Asian studies and is working as a baker.

Writing and bicycling are big passions for Howell. His book, “The Descent into Happiness” (published by Blue Ear Books), is about his cycling trek from Seattle to Milwaukee. “I wanted to see what’d I’d think about if I did a solo ride for 31 days in a row.”

Howell said he plans to take another riding/writing adventure, this time off-road. In the meantime, he keeps racking up the miles, bicycling to work every day.