Western Michigan to North Philadelphia may seem like a long trip, but new vice president for Student Affairs Theresa A. Powell might not feel as though she has traveled far at all.
Powell, who served 11 years as vice president for Student Affairs at Western Michigan University, will be taking over for the retiring Dr. Valaida Walker April 1. Powell leaves behind a student population of about 26,400 to take care of a slightly larger Temple population of about 30,000 students.
“I have quite a bit of knowledge and know-how, and I possess the basic skills needed for the position. Temple is a different institution, however, and I have different opportunities to be involved in things that I have never been closely involved in before,” she said.
The welfare of students holds much importance to Powell, and she believes that students have much to offer.
“Students are wonderful human beings. They may be different in small ways, but they are always bright, energetic and fun. I learn so much from them, and it is my privilege to watch them learn, grow and develop,” she said.
Improving residential life serves as a major issue on Powell’s agenda. She plans to work with Temple President David Adamany to increase Temple’s residential campus population by hiring private contractors to build additional residence halls for students. Her comments are timely; the University has once again announced that demand is outweighing supply and some students will not receive housing assignments next year.
“If students want the opportunity for housing, and we don’t have the facilities, there’s a niche to be filled,” said Powell, who is no stranger to large residential populations. Western Michigan has 22 residence halls that house over 6,000 students on its 900-acre main campus in Kalamazoo.
Powell also wants to strengthen ties between Temple and the Philadelphia community to expose students to various cultural activities throughout the city.
“The city of Philadelphia is a rich place to live and be, and activities and programs for students are not always needed from the campus,” she said. “We as an institution must build a link between the University and the community to help students develop and be exposed to new things.”
Powell replaces Walker, who decided to retire after 28 years.
“I believe that [Powell] will do an excellent job. She is well-respected, well-thought of and will bring excellent skills to Temple,” Walker said.
Walker received high praise from Powell.
“I have big shoes to fill. Dr. Walker has been extremely gracious in sharing and making herself available. She has rich and valuable insight to share, and she’s been really helpful,” she said.
A search committee consisting of students and faculty members interviewed candidates and recommended the most capable to Adamany, who made the final selection.
“I was personally impressed by Theresa Powell’s success in building a high quality student affairs program at Western Michigan University which, like Temple, is developing a residential student body,” Adamany said. “Dr. Powell brings great experience, tremendous energy, and the right perspective to Temple. She will be a strong advocate for students on our campus.”
With the help of administrators and students, Powell hopes to make a smooth transition into her new position.
“It’s hard to be an outsider, and I will have to rely on the veterans, my colleagues and President Adamany to see what can be changed, for they will help me understand issues and give me advice,” Powell said.
Jessica White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org