When Jeffrey Powell-Young ’20 traveled from his hometown of Silver Spring, Md. to visit Immaculata’s campus, his tour guide told him about the close-knit campus community and the way his professors would know him by name and genuinely care about him and his education. He didn’t doubt the tour guide’s word, but Powell-Young soon learned for himself how true that was. “The biggest pro to going to Immaculata is the teachers here, how they look out for you,” he says. “They work with you, and then they’re also open to talking after class. You don’t see that at a lot of schools.”
When he was struggling to learn how to use Microsoft Excel, an essential skill for his human resources management major, he asked his business and finance professor, Charlene Fitzwater, Ph.D., for help. She met with him after class for a few weeks until he understood how to create functions and formulas.
Powell-Young played four years of basketball at James Hubert Blake High School and wanted to continue playing in college. IU Coach Jayson Hyman ’09 has helped Powell-Young develop his communication skills to excel not just in basketball, but in any area of life that involves teamwork. “His emphasis on attention to detail is something that I will carry with me beyond my years of basketball,” Powell-Young says of his coach. “It is important that all five people on the floor are communicating effectively so the team is on the same page.” Just as Hyman has helped him grow as a player, Powell-Young wants to use his human resources degree to help employees grow and improve their performance.
Off the court, Powell-Young is helping to improve the academic and athletic performance of under-resourced middle school students from St. James School in west Philadelphia. He leads a team working with those students as part of Immaculata’s chapter of Enactus, an international business organization. Last year, the team visited St. James students to help with their homework, practice basketball drills and talk about what kind of jobs they want when they grow up.
Powell-Young and his team also paid for a bus to bring a small group of St. James students to tour Immaculata and attend a men’s basketball game. In a follow-up survey, all of the St. James students said they were more likely to go to college after visiting IU. “It was a really big success for us,” Powell-Young said.
“Jeff shares his enthusiasm and positive approach to move projects forward,” says Fitzwater, referencing what she called his “here’s what we need to do—we can do this” style of engaging with his team. “He successfully guided the progress and kept team members engaged with the overall goals in mind.”
Fitzwater adds that the leadership qualities she has observed in Powell-Young will serve him well in the human resources profession. He listens to opposing views, promotes strong group dynamics, defuses tough situations and puts people at ease. She wrote him a recommendation for a summer internship in human resources that he found at the Council on Foundations.
“They looked at me like a regular employee,” not just an intern, Powell-Young said. He created some behavioral policies and meeting procedures, made sure taxes and benefits were logged, and even helped recruit a new chief operating officer by asking questions in the interview about the candidate’s vision for the company. “It was kind of uncomfortable, but that’s good!” he says, grinning. “Every step in this internship actually meant something for the company.”
In his future job, “I want to be in that type of environment, where there’s a lot of open discussion, there’s a lot of people just working with everybody, good chemistry in the office,” he says. “Those things matter a lot. And being able to have a direct impact on what the company does.”