As the Class of 2016 walked out of the Van Wickle Gates last weekend, Brown was preparing for the classes of 2021 and beyond to walk through them. Logan Powell has been named the next dean of admission, according to a community-wide email from Provost Richard Locke P’17 sent Tuesday. The appointment, effective July 1, will fill the role vacated by Jim Miller ’73, who announced his retirement in January.
The appointment is the culmination of a months-long search, chaired by Dean of the College Maud Mandel. The search committee included Interim Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Mary Grace Almandrez, Director of Financial Aid James Tilton, as well as other administrators and professors, Locke wrote in an email to the community February 5. Also serving on the committee were student representatives Victoria Kidd ’16 and Gabrielle Alcala ’19.
“This is an incredibly important position for Brown, and so we had a high bar,” Mandel said. “We were looking for somebody with really strong characteristics — someone who values academic excellence, who understands the University’s mission and strategic plan, who has a record of leadership and staff management … and somebody profoundly ethical because the admissions position has a lot of pressure in it.”
“To be able to shape future classes at Brown and to work with such incredible colleagues is, for anyone in my profession, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity,” Powell told The Herald. “And so it was abundantly clear that if I had the choice, I was absolutely going to go into it with all the enthusiasm and humility I could muster.”
As dean, Powell will oversee a staff of 38 in attracting, recruiting and processing the applications of interested Brown students — whose numbers shot past a record 32,000 in 2015 — to craft classes of “the most talented, creative, intellectually independent, driven and diverse students from across the nation and the globe,” Locke wrote in his May 31 email.
Upon his arrival, Powell said he looks forward to maintaining the standards set by former Dean of Admission Jim Miller ’73, under whom the number of students of color matriculating increased to a record 47 percent for the Class of 2020 and international applications also reached record numbers. “The work that (Miller) and the financial aid office have done to matriculate extraordinary classes has been incredible,” he said. “If we can continue that success I will consider myself lucky indeed. We’re not thinking about radical change in approach; we’re thinking about incremental change that reflects new strategic priorities.”
Powell will work with President Christina Paxson P’19, Mandel, Locke and other administrators to understand and further develop the image of Brown that he and his staff members will project to applicants. Mandel said one priority will be bringing the admission team “into a more collaborative relationship with the Office of the Dean of the College and the rest of the University.” As the “first line of representation of the University in the world,” admission officials need to be fluent in discussing new initiatives like the Engaged Scholars Program and the Winter Session, Mandel added.
Powell comes to Brown from Princeton, where he has served as director of admission since 2007. As director, he was responsible for the daily operations of the admission office and directed the budget and applications processes. He advocated for student-athletes as a Princeton Faculty Athletic Fellow and advisor, and worked toward the expansion of opportunities for low-income and first-generation students as a member of the Education Access Committee.
“Really importantly, given what Brown is focused on at the moment, we were looking for someone who can understand our commitments to diversity and inclusion,” Mandel said of the search committee’s priorities. “We had a really strong pool of candidates, and he was stellar among them.”
Powell, whose arrival at Brown will coincide with the opening of the First Generation Student Center and the first full year of the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, understands that commitment and is ready to have the conversations it demands. “It’s not something where I hand them a brochure and ask them to digest it and have a high-minded conversation based on the theory of college affordability,” he said. “I’ve lived it, and so when I talk to students in the Rio Grande Valley, in West Virginia or on the South Side of Chicago, I very much see myself in them.”
Powell’s mother — who, he takes care to note, “was and continues to be everything to (him),” teaching him to tie a tie and to shave — was a single parent who raised her son in a Florida trailer park. “Money was always in short supply, and I remember conversations in my living room about how I would possibly be able to afford to go to college,” he said. “The conversations were grounded in the notion that if I didn’t apply to the best schools in the country, which had the best financial aid policies, there was a very real chance that I wouldn’t go to college.”
Ultimately, wanting to support his family and craving a rigorous educational experience, Powell matriculated at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He went on to earn his master’s degree at Harvard and later returned to first Cambridge and then Maine for service in his alma maters’ admission offices before moving to Princeton in 2007.
Just as he identifies with low-income applicants, so too does Powell know what it feels like to juggle academic and athletic priorities. As a former captain of Bowdoin’s track and field team, Powell hopes to attract students to Brown in pursuit of a sport-school balance. “I think athletics are an incredible component to a college or university setting,” he said.
Having been named dean on a weekend when Bruno’s woes were supplanted by athletic success — last weekend, the women’s crew team rowed its way to sixth in the nation, and the men’s lacrosse team’s trip to the NCAA Final Four capped one of the greatest seasons in Brown history — Powell is ready to do what he can to keep the victory train rolling. “It would be my hope that we can bring that level of success or more to all the athletic teams,” he said. “We want to win, and I will be a huge fan of Brown athletics and will support the program in any way I possibly can.”
That support will extend to communities across campus, Powell said. “One of my goals going forward will be to spend as much time as I possibly can in the life of Brown students,” he said. “I’ll be a fixture at athletic competitions and art installations and music performances. I look forward to not just doing this job in some remote part of campus — I hope to be not just visible but really engaged and supportive.”
So even though the official job description charges him with overseeing applications, Powell’s vision of his role extends beyond SATs and APs and admissions decisions – which, after twenty years, still hurt when he has to say no, he added. “I can say with conviction that one of my goals that I set near the top of my list is to make sure that I continue to stay in touch with students after they matriculate,” he said.
In a bittersweet but fitting quirk of timing, Powell’s appointment at Brown was announced the same day as commencement at Princeton, which is one of Powell’s “highlights of the professional year,” he said. “Here at Princeton, I’ve seen two full cohorts of students come through: students who I met as juniors in high school, I’ve seen them go all the way through Princeton, graduate, and they now have jobs. To remain part of their journey over a long period of time is an incredible gift and is something that I don’t take for granted.”