Dr. Powell is a seasoned nursing educator and administrator with over 30 years of experience. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Hampton University, a Master of Science in Maternal and Infant Nursing from the Catholic University in America, and a Doctorate of Nursing Education in Higher Education Administration from the College of William and Mary. She furthered her studies at Harvard University in the School of Education. Prior to coming to Duke in January, 2006, Dr. Powell spent the previous 18 years as Chief Academic Officer for Nursing at Howard University, Washington, DC. Other posts include Chairperson, Department of Nursing at Norfolk State University, and Assistant Professor of Nursing at George Mason University, Hampton University, and Thomas Nelson Community College. From 2006 to 2013, she served as Associate Dean of the Office of Global and Community Health Initiatives in the School of Nursing at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
Dr. Powell is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. She has served as Secretary and a member of the Board of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. In addition, she has served on several national advisory councils including the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Center on Research Resources, the National Advisory Council on Nursing Education and Practice, and Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research. Her dominant area of scholarly study and publications is environmental justice.
Beyond academic and administrative roles, much of Dr. Powell’s career has incorporated service to the community, particularly low income and minority communities. A significant facet of her community work has been her involvement with the homeless population in Washington, DC. In that capacity, she provided leadership to the development of a convalescent unit for homeless individuals in a large shelter. She was also responsible for the development of a unique career training program, Nursing Careers for Homeless People, which has won national recognition. Through this program, nearly 90 previously homeless men and women were trained for careers in nursing ranging from nursing assistants to RNs with Bachelor of Science degrees.
Since the late 1980s, Dr. Powell has been engaged in international development work. This work has been primarily focused in southern Africa. She has provided technical assistance and consultation on primary health care development to ministries of health, schools of nursing, hospitals and health care systems in Swaziland, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and South Africa.
Dr. Powell’s founded the School of Nursing's Office of Global and Community Health Initiatives (OGACHI) in 2006, and served as Associate Dean for Global Health and Community Initiatives until July, 2014. Her responsibilities included developing and facilitating educational, research, and community service programs to reduce health disparities in Durham, in North Carolina, and in countries around the world. Her international work targeted the Caribbean, Central America, Africa, and parts of Asia.