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U of O prof recalls early days as Gee-Gee

IT WAS NOT supposed to be like this for Mark Lowes. The University of Ottawa associate professor of communications never planned to become a professor; his hope had always been to become a professional football player.

“It was the only objective I had,” said Lowes. “I got in, majored in law, switched to sociology, and had a very limited focus, none of it academic. I had no academic motivation.”

Lowes had a successful high school football career, having won provincial and city championships at Crestwood Secondary School in Peterborough between 1984–88. At the time, Lowes knew if he wanted to go professional, he’d have to go to university. He just barely slipped into Carleton University with the grades needed to obtain admission and became the first member of his immediate family to attend university.

In 1988, Lowes made the jump to Canadian Interuniversity Sport football as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Ravens. He was switched to the offensive line exclusively in his second year, but it was at that point that academics started to take a more prominent role in his life. It was a first year introduction to law class that caught his attention.

“I only took the course because it fit into my training schedule,” said Lowes. “It was a 400-person intro to law class but there was something about it that struck me.”

Peter Swan, a member of the department of law and legal studies, taught the class.  Lowes met Swan on campus one day, by chance.

“I took a chance to chat away. He was an interesting person and teacher and we hit it off. He became instrumental in developing my interest in law and he’s become an important lifelong friend.”

It was that relationship with Swan and an interest in a new topic that spurred Lowes on an academic path, all the while balancing football and a full-time job at night. This left Lowes juggling a number of activities, but he enjoyed his undergraduate experience.

“The only thing I missed out on was finding time to sit around and play video games for eight hours a day like my roommates did,” he said.

Lowes never realized his dream of professional football. He wasn’t drafted by a Canadian Football League team after his time with the Ravens from 1988–92 but quickly turned his attention to his academic career. He obtained a master’s in Canadian studies from Carleton in 1995 and his PhD in communications from Simon Fraser University in 1999.

Still, Lowes takes the lessons learned from his football days into his academic and personal life.

“I’ve learned to identify goals and do what you have to to achieve them, but the goals have to be motivated by a passion,” he said. “If you’re an undergrad and you’re not motived, nothing is going to come of it.”

If Lowes hadn’t become a professor, he had a couple of other career path ideas outside of football.

“Professional artist, maybe a conservation office but who knows? The trouble is, once I decided that this is the career I wanted, there isn’t much consideration of anything else. There was no Plan B. So good thing it worked out because there was nothing else on the radar.”