The 2014-15 academic year marks the end of another successful installment to the College of William & Mary’s 322-year history. This year brought with it a slew of accomplishments from students and faculty alike. For Kathleen Powell, this year has been a significant one as well, marking two major career milestones: the completion of her first full year as the assistant vice president for student affairs and executive director of career development for the College, as well as her recent election to the position of president-elect for the National Association for Colleges and Employers (NACE).
Powell, who received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Akron University and her master’s in college student personnel from Miami University of Ohio, has almost 30 years of experience under her belt working in higher education and career development at institutions such as Ashland University, Knox College, Marietta College, Grinnell College, the University of Akron and Denison University.
“There is lots of opportunity here to do good work,” Powell said of the College. “Whenever I changed positions, it was about finding a place where I could have an impact.”
Over the course of her first year with William & Mary, Powell has worked with various departments across campus to establish several new student resources at the Cohen Career Center. Furthermore, with the help of Powell, the provost has appointed a career development committee, comprised of faculty representatives from across campus disciplines and departments, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, the William & Mary School of Education, the William & Mary Law School, the VA Office, and various arts and sciences departments on campus. The committee was convened in order to ensure that, in developing student programming and services, everyone has equal play.
In addition, Powell has worked to achieve transparency and collaboration across the various career service departments at the College, including the Law School Career Services Office, the Cohen Career Center, and the M.B.A. Career Services Department. Powell meets once a month with various career services department heads in order to discuss strategies for bringing career opportunities to William & Mary.
“We want to make sure that when employers come to William & Mary, we are one William & Mary,” Powell said. “Career development doesn’t just happen in Cohen; it can happen in a variety of places. We think it’s important that students have these opportunities and pathways to engage with our alumni. However we can get students connected, that’s what we want to do.”
Powell also hopes to continue fostering the Cohen Career Center’s strong relationships with its most valuable resource: parents.
“I think, in all the positions that I have had, parents have always been an instrumental part of a student’s career development and have always been allies for the career centers in which I’ve worked,” Powell said. “These parents will do mock interviews, they will do resume reviews, they will host networking receptions. It really makes a difference when we have parents and alumni who want to get involved with our office and want to give back. These parents provide such a great value, especially at William
& Mary.” She has a strong foundation to build on: 83 percent of the Class of 2014 is employed or in graduate school, according to a recent Cohen Center survey.
William & Mary is not the only place where Powell’s career development expertise has been noticed. This July, Powell will add a new title to her impressive resume: president-elect of NACE.
NACE works to connect career service professionals with employers across the nation, providing its members with “high-quality resources and research; networking and professional development opportunities; and standards, ethics, advocacy, and guidance on key issues.”
“It’s the space where career services and employers come together and have those important conversations,” Powell said. “It will be an exciting time to take that deep dive in terms of what is happening across 8,000 different members. More importantly, it gives William & Mary a place within this resource.”
Powell has long been involved in the organization’s leadership, chairing various committees and task forces during her 30-year membership. Powell was nominated for her elected position by her NACE peers, and following a review by a sourcing and nominating committee, was selected to the ballot, where she was elected by a vote of membership. Powell’s term as president-elect will officially begin on July 1, 2015, with her term as president beginning the following July.
Powell hopes to use her new position within NACE to create new opportunities within the College.
“It will be about being the first on the scene — having that information — in order to make sure that we are doing what we should be doing in terms of professional competencies,” Powell said. “It’s also about making sure that our students are as career ready as possible based on the information that is available through the National Association for Colleges and Employers.”
With 30 years in career development behind her, Powell looks forward to making her work at the College her best yet.
“I’m just so happy to be at William & Mary,” Powell said. “I’m truly happy to be here. I feel like I’m a freshman student. I knew, like our admitted students say they know: when I got here, it just felt right. It just hit me — this was where I needed to be. This was an opportunity for me to make a difference, an opportunity to add value, an opportunity to take a good, solid program and just really expand in so many directions with employers, parents, alumni, faculty and students, and just have this truly comprehensive career development program for every student who walks through the Wren Building.”