Prof. Gowda did his schooling from Cluny Convent School and St. Joseph’s Boys High School. He studied Economics and Political science at St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore, where he was elected Vice-president of the student union during 1982-83. He was awarded the Bangalore University gold medal in Political Science and secured a fully funded scholarship to pursue Masters in Economics at Fordham University, New York, USA.
After completing his post-graduation studies, Prof. Gowda moved to the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, USA, to complete his Ph.D in Public Policy & Management where he was awarded the University Fellowship.
After completing his Ph.D, he went on to do post-doctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley where he was awarded the John M. Olin Post-doctoral Fellow in Law and Economics in 1991. He was also a visiting scholar at the Centre for Jurisprudence and Social Policy- Law School (Boalt Hall), University of California.
In 1992, he joined the University of Oklahoma as Assistant Professor of Political Science. He held positions of Associate Professor of Political Science and Research Fellow in Science and Public Policy at the University of Oklahoma. He was also the Coordinator, Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Environment Program at the University in 1999. He attained tenure as a Professor at the University of Oklahoma but moved back to India in 2000.
Soon after returning to India and settling down in his hometown Bangalore, he joined the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) where he taught Economics and Social Sciences. He was instrumental in setting up the Centre for Public Policy at IIMB and was Chairperson of the same. At IIMB, Prof Gowda has also taught bureaucrats and legislators from across the country. He designed and led the India-Women in Leadership(i-WIL) programme to train women politicians.
Prof Gowda has served as the Director on the Central Board of the Reserve Bank of India and has been a Carnegie Council Global Ethics Fellow. He also held the positions of Director, General Insurance Corporation of India and was Member of the executive council at the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development.He is a columnist for leading publications and writes on topics like governance, political process and analysis, economic growth, education system and electoral reforms.
Among the books that he has published are Editor, Judgements, Decisions and Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, 2002; Co-Editor (i) Integrating Insurance and Risk Management for Hazardous Wastes, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1990 and (ii) India's Risks, Oxford University Press, India, 2014.
An avid quizzer,Prof Gowda co-founded the Karnataka Quiz Association in 1983, and was the national runner up on BBC TV’s Mastermind India in 2001.