William & Mary

National career-services association honors Powell

  • Kathleen Powell
    Induction honor:  Kathleen I. Powell, William & Mary associate vice president for career development, was inducted into the National Association of Colleges and Employers Academy of Fellows in June.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Kathleen I. Powell, William & Mary associate vice president for career development, was inducted into the National Association of Colleges and Employers Academy of Fellows in June.

The NACE Academy of Fellows, the group’s highest honor, recognizes individuals who have contributed to the profession through the advancement of knowledge, leadership or excellence in professional practice. Powell, a past president of NACE, said she was “honored and humbled to receive such an esteemed recognition of my work in the field.”

Her role at W&M focuses on managing career development for the university, setting a strategic vision and overseeing the Cohen Career Center team.

“Kathleen Powell is an experienced, enterprising, and passionate career development professional,” said W&M Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler. “With energy that seems to know no bounds and a steady eye on data analytics, she continuously brings cutting-edge practices to W&M. There is no question that our students are the great beneficiaries.

“Kathleen’s focus — always — is on what is in the best interest of students. She and her team work closely with faculty, staff, alumni, parents and employers to support W&M students in becoming truly career-ready.”

W&M News recently caught up with Powell to talk about her unique role.

What do you like about what you do?

I am very lucky that I am in a career that I enjoy, that I excel in and make a difference. Career development is a professional practice that touches so many. I serve at the pleasure of William & Mary and intersect with students, faculty, alumni, employers, parents and friends of the institution. I am surrounded by a team of professionals within the Cohen Career Center that are student-focused and understand what it takes to assist today’s students. 

I appreciate the opportunity to connect with students early in their academic careers. In fact, the Cohen Career Center is part of the freshmen experience, through the First Year Experience Office, to make those early introductions, assisting students to start the career development process early. 

Each day brings a new win and sometimes a new challenge. I appreciate the opportunity to think broadly, use data, make connections and know that in the end, students are career ready and excited about their next journey.

How does your job fit your personality?

In my role as AVP, it is important to make connections across the campus. I drive for student success and I believe that connections serve our students better and provide a holistic approach to career development.  We know we are better when working together as one William & Mary.

If you are familiar with StrengthsFinder, my top five strengths are positivity, communication, includer, arranger and woo (winning others over).  This role requires the ability to make connections, utilize solid communication, manage others, include others and seeing the positive in outcomes, people and the work at hand.  I am fortunate to be in a role where connections are imperative. Every day I’m connecting with our students, employers, parents, faculty, and the goal is to never miss an opportunity to connect for the greater good. 

How does this work benefit the modern university?

The landscape of career services has changed drastically over the last 20 years. The model of career development has gone from counseling to coaching and advising. The movement is for a transformation experience, not transactional. We look at our students as partners in the career development process, assisting them in achieving their career development goals by providing tools, resources and coaching them through the internship, job-search and graduate/professional school process.

And, we know that students must be career ready. We work with our students, both undergraduate, graduate and recent alumni to hone in on their career competencies and assist them in articulating those competencies to potential organizations. We also know that not all students will seek out their first position of interest immediately after graduation and look for a gap year. This is all to say, in our professional practice, we must be nimble, knowledgeable and resourceful. We continually use data to make informed decision, benchmark with peer and aspirant institutions to be front and center in the career center market.

We know different generations value different thoughts, ideas and views on the world of work.  The Cohen Career Center is at the ready to solve for those changes and works diligently to bring the best of contemporary thought to all that we do and the way in which we work with all our constituents.

What’s next for the Cohen Career Center?

We are excited about the upcoming William & Mary strategic planning process. The outcome of the plan will drive our own strategic plan that is ready for an update. We are taking all the knowledge gained from our stated committees and have reorganized our student facing team.

We know students have an appetite for career direction, insights and resources. To that end, the realignment of the student-facing team will ensure a professional practice that will meet the needs of all students. The benchmark data from NACE, the career advising models of our peer and aspirant schools are either moving to this model or are settled in this new framework.

Our employer partners look to William & Mary to source high quality talent. We are meeting their needs through a collaborative effort across all career centers on campus. William & Mary is rich in student talent, and we continuously look for ways to bring employers to the table. And, as part of the reorganization for the student-facing advising team, there is a concerted emphasis on employer engagement and programming.

With the job market so solid, competition to attract employers is strong. With a dedicated effort to employer support, we are on a trajectory to add to the full complement of our employer base

This is all to say, I am honored to serve at the pleasure of William & Mary, using strategy, professional practice, connections and larger optics to support our students, alumni, employers, faculty and parents.  Being inducted into the Academy of Fellows is certainly an honor of achievement.  My thinking is, what’s next?