Meet New WRAC Chair Dr. Malea Powell
Dr. Malea Powell is no stranger to Michigan State or the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures (WRAC), so perhaps “meet” is the wrong word. Dr. Powell has been at MSU for 14 years. During this time she has served as a faculty member in WRAC and the American Indian Studies program and as director of graduate programs in WRAC. However, we are now introducing her in her new role as WRAC department chair.
As chair, Dr. Powell is in charge of strategic visioning for the department as well as managerial responsibilities such as overseeing the budget. She thinks of her position as “creating an environment where people do their best work.” She adds, “It’s not about me; it's about them and my ability to create an environment where they never notice me doing it. They just know that it’s there and they feel comfortable and secure in it.”
Dr. Powell’s perspective as someone who does research on Native American culture and is a member of the Native community herself gives her a unique perspective on her role as chair. She says her background helps her to view her position as leading from the middle of a circle rather than the top of a pyramid. “When I think of leading from the middle,” she says, “I think about a place where I can literally turn around and ask everyone if they’re okay and find out what they need and then move us all towards that.” She describes this as “being willing to not have it my way all the time, to go through the messiness of getting sixty faculty [members] together and saying ‘what are the things you most want?’ and then letting that be the guide.”
One of Dr. Powell’s favorite things about her new role is that it allows her to learn more about all the different work being done by faculty and students in WRAC. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the interesting humans in this department,” she says. “I didn’t anticipate that as something that was full of joy, but it has been something that is full of joy for me.”
Written for WRAC by Jay Hull