Cover Story: Balancing Act

Miami University's Powell helps tip the scales

May 9, 2002 at 2:06 pm

Spend some time with Dr. Myrtis Powell, and race will matter.

"There are just some things you can't change," according to Miami University's vice president of student affairs. Among the unchangeable? Age, race and origin.

Powell grew up in the South, and she admits she never truly forgot where she came from or how hard it's been to get to where she is now. Her persuasiveness and moral strength have guided her through several local universities and levels of education.

Powell says we'd all be more similar if we shared a penchant for integrity, which, she says, should be the constant that's never compromised.

"If you exert leadership over people, it's your duty to influence them in some way," she says.

And Powell teaches the students of Miami by example, whether by nurturing their accomplishments or devouring their ideas.

"No mater what level of power you might have, students have given me power all my life as well as my staff," she says. "Watching them blossom in itself has shown me the world."

But Powell recognizes that, in our humanity, we remain unequal — as a race, as women and unequal in ideas — though perhaps these inequalities are crucial components to growth.

She says we have to learn to accept these pluralisms to gain headway in the world and ultimately find a way to make a difference. The scales must somehow be made to balance.

"Because this country is not color-blind, there are still legally enforced equalities in the world because they must be there," she says.

Powell is proud, though, of the future and the direction we're headed. She's proud because hers is but one more hand trying to balance the scale.