December 5, 2013
CSU names Powis as the
By Robert Bray
The president’s office has announced Richard T. Powis is the university valedictorian for the fall 2013 graduating class. Last month, Powis was named College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) valedictorian. Powis a medical anthropology major, with minors in French and biology.
“It’s kind of overwhelming,” said Powis.
He remembers his idea of valedictorians in high school as being pristine, strongly religiously affiliated, and seemingly always involved with volunteer work.
At the moment he isn’t sure what he will say for his speech due to the fact that he is preoccupied with his senior project and math finals.
“What are the things that most people do for their speeches, they tear it in half and recite the Lord ’s Prayer.” he said.
He’s a non-traditional student who went into cooking right out of high school. He cooked for seven years and gained a lot of work ethic which contributed to his work ethic academically.
“I wouldn’t have done this well if I went right into college after high school,” he said.
When he started college at Cleveland State, he was 25 and says he knew exactly what he wanted to do by that time.
He was volunteering at archeological curation facilities. He was doing archeology field school and started doing research for the University Provost Research Grant. He was able to take that research to professional conferences.
In 2012 Powis started doing research in West Africa, where he says he fell in love with Senegal and felt like he had to go back. This past summer his professor wrote
a proposal for a research grant with the Provost and that sent him back this past summer.
The first time he studied traditional medicine in Dakar, the French colonial capital of Africa. The second time he studied masculinity and reproductive health, which he is writing his 30-page senior project on.
He also says he wants to go back to Senegal often so that he doesn’t drift away from how it changed his perspective on how he now lives in America.
“The first time I came back I quit smoking and bought a bike,” he said. “I’ve become a little more frugal since I got back.”
He always wanted to study anthropology. When he was a kid he moved a lot. He attended 11 different schools before he graduated high school, where he met many different people.
He was entranced by Egypt and Indiana Jones movies. He was also deeply evangelical as a kid which led to his opinions about the fact that different people believe different things.
Later he realized that his opinions and questions were a part of anthropology as well.
“I had this kind of idea where it was like; wait a second, why do people believe what they believe if we think that they are wrong? Why do they not know that they are wrong?” he said.
He’s currently applying to a large number of universities, aiming for a Ph.D in medical anthropology. Before then he will earn a Masters in public health.
“Teaching is something I really, really want to do but that job market is so kind of messed up right now between the way that adjunct professors are abused and universities are slowly morphing into these corporations and our presidents are becoming CEOs,” he said.
He says that he owes much of his success at CSU to being able to take four-credit classes.
“I couldn’t imagine where I would be if I could only take three-credit classes, that was one of the reasons I chose Cleveland State,” he said. Recently, Cleveland State decided
to move to a three-credit class model, starting next fall.
“It was just handled terribly,” he said.
He also said he knows professors at CSU and at other universities who are underpaid.
“They work so hard. You have no idea how hard these people work. And they’re making three grand per semester,” he said.
He believes that he owes his success to the faculty’s engagement to the students.
“I love the faculty here,” said Powis. “I used to think that whole ‘Engaged’ thing, the marketing term was kind of silly, but now I look back and it’s kind of cool.”