Kathleen I. Powell, William & Mary’s chief career officer, connects people and resources all across the university to help students prepare for and advance in their careers.

Powell’s role has evolved, grown and become integral as she leads the university’s emphasis on careers outlined in the Vision 2026 strategic plan.

For her career-long work with the organization, the National Association of Colleges and Employers honored Powell with The Kauffman Award in June. The award is given to an individual for making a tangible contribution to NACE that significantly improved the association, according to NACE.

“To be recognized for meaningful and consistent advancements for our national association humbles me,” Powell said. “To be honored by my peers is truly the highlight of my career and association with NACE.  I am very proud and humbled to be recognized in my profession in this way. It has been my privilege to have been able to make an impact on the profession and the practice.”

W&M News asked Powell to talk further about her unique view of the connections between the university and the working world.

Q: How has your role emphasizing careers of current students and alumni grown?

A: I came to William & Mary in 2014 as the assistant vice president for student affairs and executive director of career development. In 2016, I was promoted to associate vice president for career development and in 2021 was promoted to chief career officer. 

With each opportunity, I was charged with new initiatives to support students and alumni, expanding our external partners for our students to create more career pathways for applied learning, full-time opportunities, and expanded services. 

During the pandemic, President Katherine A. Rowe charged me with leading the Career Pathways Team that brought together more than 80 William & Mary professionals from 30 units to coordinate career development efforts, in the process establishing the Professional Development Academy for current students and recent alumni.

We also organized the Employer Partnership Team, which fosters more holistic partnerships with employers across all industries to bolster career development opportunities for William & Mary students and alumni. As the chief career officer, I’m charged with implementing the career initiatives in Vision 2026.

Q: How does Vision 2026’s highlighting of careers make them more integral to the university’s purpose?

A: Vision 2026 is the catalyst — or rocket fuel — for lifelong career engagement.  The careers initiative has set the stage for career capital, social capital, for all undergraduate students to have access to paid internships or applied learning.

Technology will allow us to support students through alumni mentoring and engagement.  Micro-credentialing with digital badging showing its completion will assist our students and alumni in attaining highly sought-after skills and career competencies.  This initiative has set the stage for what students and alumni can expect from the Alma Mater of the Nation for career readiness and career success.

Q: What are your office’s projects that we should be on the lookout for?

A: We recently signed with Graduway, the leading networking and community platform to recruit and mentor students, engage alumni and volunteers, and cultivate donors at scale.  This technology will allow students to connect with alumni for mentoring and networking as well as alumni-to-alumni engagement.

We will also have the ability to engage our external partners, parents and friends of the university to connect them with our students and alumni to build career capacity for all using the system. In addition, we are creating an integrated, one-stop William & Mary website for students and hiring organizations, calling in all those at William & Mary who support internships and applied learning.

Q: How will this work shape the future career prospects for students and keep alumni involved?

A: With Vision 2026, we have metrics and deliverables that build on the good work happening at the university and can build upon that framework for lifelong career engagement. It’s a model that starts before students begin their first day at William & Mary and for all time coming.  William & Mary is an institution of higher education that publicly states its intentions for career readiness, equitable access to paid internships and applied learning, and broadly supports lifelong career engagement.

Q: How does this fit into the bigger picture?

A: We are at a moment in higher education where career readiness and career pathways are front and center. It is an honor and privilege to be at an institution that recognizes the financial pressures for families and the need to provide support beyond scholarships; to have opportunities to participate in internships, applied learning, create alumni and employer connections and showcase how a strong academic experience must go in tandem with applied learning experiences.

, Communications Specialist