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Powell named 2020 Distinguished Maine Professor

University of Maine Professor Richard Powell has been named the 2020 Distinguished Maine Professor (DMP) by the University of Maine Alumni Association. Powell will receive the university’s most prestigious faculty award at the annual Alumni Achievement Awards and Recognition Ceremony on April 24 at Wells Conference Center.

Powell is a professor of political science, the founding director of the William S. Cohen Institute for Leadership & Public Service and manages the university’s interdisciplinary minor in Leadership Studies. Additionally, he oversees UMaine’s Congressional Internship Program and the Kenneth Palmer Maine State Legislature Internship Program. 

In 2010, Powell taught graduate courses on American elections and political institutions at one of China’s top five universities, Zhejiang University, as a Fulbright Lecturer. 

According to the UMaine Alumni Association’s website, the DMP award is given out annually to honor those professors who exemplify the highest qualities of teaching, research and public service.  

Every fall, committees made up of students and faculty from each college nominate professors for the award, and one is selected by the DMP committee. Along with the award, the winners receive a $4,200 prize, a distinctive blazer and a pewter medallion sponsored by the graduating classes of 1942 and 2002. 

There are so many fabulous faculty members at UMaine that it was, frankly, just a huge honor to even be nominated for the award,” Powell commented. “One of the great things about working at UMaine is that the university really creates a supportive environment for faculty who value all aspects of their work — teaching, research and service to the public. For me, all three of those areas have been critical to my work, but I have always worked to put students as my first priority.” 

The alumni and faculty members that nominated Powell for the honor wrote that he is a gifted, enthusiastic and empowering professor that pushes students toward success and shows a great passion for his field of study. 

Powell led UMaine’s leadership studies minor to great success and growth after its introduction in the fall of 2014. 

“The leadership studies minor is an innovative and fast-growing program that provides students with in-depth knowledge of leadership theory, ethics, skills, and context-based issues, as well as practical, experiential training applicable to nearly any area of study or social setting. We’ve had nearly 500 students taking our courses in the past year. Those students come from every college at UMaine,” Powell noted.

Along with directing numerous programs for students, Powell has conducted research focusing on U.S. presidency, Congress, leadership, elections and American political thought. Additionally, he is the author of journal articles, book chapters and several books focusing on topics such as state politics, presidential and congressional elections and relations. Most recently, Powell co-authored “The 2016 Presidential Election: The Causes and Consequences of a Political Earthquake.”

Powell became a member of UMaine’s faculty in 2001, after teaching at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. He grew up in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan and later received his masters and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University in Illinois. He and his wife have three children. 

Powell will join 56 other UMaine professors that have received the award since 1963. All of these professors have impacted UMaine’s campus culture in their own unique ways, but each is thought to have exemplified incredibly high qualities of teaching, research and public service during their time.


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