Alumnus Roger Powell recently returned to Graceland as the director of the writing center, completing a full circle that started when he began to find his way as an undergraduate student several years ago. Powell graduated from Graceland in 2012, but the direction he ultimately chose in his educational path had been a long time coming.
He attended high school in Creston, Iowa, and even though he did not enjoy school, he decided to go to college and attend Graceland University on a football scholarship. Without a clear direction for his future and a number of injuries that would prevent him from continuing as an athlete, Powell changed his major several times but ultimately settled on English.
As a junior at Graceland, he took a class called Methods of Teaching English with Jim Uhlenkamp, who also ran the writing center at the time. Uhlenkamp saw something in him and suggested that Powell could be a good writing tutor. Without football, Powell was in the midst of trying to find a sense of purpose for himself and decided he would embrace the opportunity.
During his senior year, influenced by his work as a tutor, Powell chose a research project on the use of audio recordings in writing tutoring for his Advanced Composition class. As he discussed his findings with his mentor, Uhlenkamp said to him, “You know you can do this as a profession, right?” And that was the game changer for Powell. He now knew what he wanted to do with his life beyond Graceland.
After graduation and with a new passion for learning, Powell went directly from Graceland to the University of North Dakota, where he received his Master of Arts in American Literature, and then directly to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he completed a PhD in English in 2018. Powell then went on to teach English and writing courses at Buena Vista University in Storm Like, Iowa, where he also ran the writing center.
Powell was not necessarily looking for a new job when he saw the listing for a new director of Graceland’s writing center. But he had loved his time in Lamoni because of the sense of community that Graceland provides and the personal connections that can be made with professors, so he immediately applied for the position.
“I was reminded of a lot of good memories – of being here, studying writing, studying English, having these great conversations with professors…” shared Powell. “I saw the job post, and I thought of all those great conversations, and finding a love for writing and writing pedagogy and writing tutoring… I thought about the opportunity to join that – to be able to give back to the next generation of Graceland students… I now get to build that sense of community. I was a part of it, and now I get to build it.”
Powell took over as the new director of Graceland’s writing center this summer and is back at the place where he first began his tutoring career nearly 10 years ago. In his new role, he recruits and trains student tutors, just as Uhlenkamp did for him. He also helps with institutional group tutoring and promotes the writing center through outreach in classrooms. He even hopes to teach workshops related to tutoring at Graceland in the future.
"For me, there is nothing else I could imagine myself doing besides directing a writing center,” said Powell. “I get the privilege of helping students grow as writers, thinkers, and even as people. I don't think of it as a job – it’s a passion that just so happens to help Graceland students succeed."
About the Graceland University Writing Center:
The Graceland University Writing Center provides a supportive, welcoming environment where all Graceland students can work together with trained tutors to improve both their writing knowledge and skills. The writing center assists students in all majors and at any stage of the writing process to become better, more confident writers. Students will work with writing tutors. These peer tutors are experienced readers and writers specifically trained to assist students of all levels and abilities with their writing. The writing center offers both face-to-face tutoring (for students on the Lamoni campus) and online tutoring (for any distance Graceland University students).