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News, University News

Logan Powell’s road to the Brown Admission Office

Current dean of admission on his path to college, admissions during COVID-19, hobbies outside of work

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Dean of Admissions Logan Powell aims to make the admissions process as straightforward and accessible as possible, especially during a pandemic.

Logan Powell always admired Brown when he was in high school, but never viewed it as a realistic option for himself. 

He was raised by a single mother in a trailer park in Jacksonville, Florida, where very few people ever went to college at all, and he doesn’t think he would have known at the time what the “qualifications are that are necessary to get into a place as incredible as Brown,” he said. 

Now, as the University’s acting dean of admissions for over four years, Powell is passionate about broadening access to Brown, especially for students like him who may not even consider it a feasible option for them.

“One of the things that I’ve always thought critically about is, putting myself back in those shoes, how can we improve access?” Powell said. “How can we eliminate barriers?”

Reflecting on his own educational journey

Powell’s mother always emphasized the idea that it was essential for Powell to go to college, and helped him achieve that goal in many ways: making sure he did his homework on time, giving him pep talks and coaching him through his running, which he continued through college. 

“She kind of did it all because she knew that college was a pathway to even greater opportunity and to having choices that the people in the trailer park in Jacksonville just didn’t have,” Powell said.

Powell ended up attending Bowdoin College, where he ran track and field. Later, he began to volunteer for Bowdoin’s admissions office by hosting students and serving on admissions panels. “I really genuinely got hooked on (admissions) then because I felt like there was an opportunity for me to connect with students who, like me, maybe never even thought that going to an amazing school was a possibility and didn’t know how the process works.”

After receiving his master’s degree at Harvard, Powell became even more engrossed in the world of admissions. He built a career in the admissions offices at Princeton, Harvard and Bowdoin before coming to Brown in 2016. 

Motivated by his own experience as a college applicant, Powell has focused his work on making the daunting and stressful college application process as straightforward and accessible as possible — especially during an unprecedented global pandemic. 

Powell is cognizant of the many invisible barriers in the admissions process, such as application fees, testing policies and the availability of information for students who can’t visit campus in person. Powell said he experienced some of these barriers firsthand when applying to college himself. But since then, he has seen the admissions community focus on making the process more accessible to all interested students.

The Admission Office is made up of people with a broad range of perspectives who are committed to “strengthening the diversity and academic talent represented at Brown,” he said. “We all feel this incredible honor, frankly, to bring students from all walks of life to Brown.”

“Every day, I am awed by the University and the team I have to work with and the opportunity we have to shape the future of Brown,” Powell said. “It’s something I have never taken for granted.”

The Admission Office’s adjustment to COVID-19 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Powell and his team had to quickly adjust their typical procedures.

The Admission Office came up with several contingency plans that modeled potential outcomes depending on the impact of the virus as it began to spread in February and March. 

Just as campus was closing to students and visitors, the Admission Office was preparing to send out regular-decision acceptances, and very quickly had to adjust much of the regular outreach and communication for admitted students. 

While adapting to the new landscape, Powell said that one main piece of the planning was keeping in mind the “actual human impacts on the families in our applicant pool.”

Powell understood that many admitted students and families would be disappointed that they would not have an opportunity to visit campus, but the Admission Office strengthened its virtual outreach and adapted programs like A Day on College Hill to an online format.

Beyond accommodating the needs of admitted students, Powell also focused on how the Admission Office would stay connected and maintain its sense of community internally. The team is accustomed to working together in the same building and easily dropping in on each other to find solutions to problems, Powell said, so the transition to Zoom was a challenge. 

The admission process benefits from seeing prospective applicants in person, Powell said, whether it be on campus through a tour or information session or at an event near their home or school, in order to learn more about a student’s life. “It’s really important for us to have that empathy and to have that understanding to know what the environment is that our students are coming from,” he said. “I think it really informs our decision-making in a way that we don’t want to lose.”

But Powell is aware that even prior to the pandemic, many students did not have the opportunity to visit campus or attend another Brown-sponsored event. The pandemic, in many ways, has forced the Admission Office to be more creative about outreach and strengthen its digital assets. As a result, Powell said, these new initiatives have created more opportunities for prospective students to learn about Brown through live virtual tours, for example.

“When things go back to normal, we would still encourage (visiting campus) while also recognizing there are a lot of students who just can’t visit for whatever set of reasons, and we should continue to do everything we can to showcase Brown to the best of our ability because it really is an incredibly special place,” Powell said.

Nationwide, the volume of early-decision applications has decreased by eight percent amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data Powell said that the Common Application has shared with “chief enrollment officers” at its partner institutions. The virus has disproportionately impacted low-income and first-generation populations, and early-decision applications from those groups of students have decreased by 16 percent nationwide.

But Brown has seen its early-decision application volume increase by 16 percent and did not observe a decrease in the number of first-generation and low-income applicants in the pool. Powell mainly credits this increase to the strength of the University’s financial aid, including the Brown Promise, as well as the virtual outreach of the Admission Office.

Courtesy of Logan Powell

In his free time, Powell likes to go on walks throughout Providence with his dog, Gus.

Outside of work

The Admission Office is currently in the early decision phase of the year. Powell’s schedule currently consists of 12- to 13-hour work days with various meetings from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and additional hours of application-reading in the evening.

In his brief slivers of free time, Powell still enjoys running or biking on the East Bay Bike Path and reading or studying anything he can in order to be a “more informed member of the Brown community,” he said. “At this point in my life, I still only read non-fiction because I just feel like I need to know as much as I can.” 

He also spends his free time going on walks throughout College Hill with his French bulldog, Gus. “He’s way more popular than I am,” Powell said. “When I’m walking with him, no one knows that I’m attached to him. … He’s like the unofficial mayor of Providence.”

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