“One person has to intervene on the part of the student. That’s me.”
Since the winter of 2018, Dr. Stephen Powers has been the ombudsperson of Bronx Community College, the go-to professor students go to with any problem that threatens their ability to stay at BCC.
“I do a lot of work with students in academic and financial distress,” says the BCC veteran of 20 years. “I serve as the person of last resort for any student who is having difficulty with instructors, staff, policy and procedures and so forth. Students are not always aware of all the rules. There are policies in place for almost every situation.
“As a faculty member, I tell students education is their primary concern. But as ombudsperson I know that education can’t always be their primary concern. So when personal problems overwhelm them, they may find themselves not in good academic standing and therefore not eligible for financial aid — and for the vast majority of our students if they do not get financial aid, they can’t be in college. One person has to intervene on the part of the student. That’s me.
“There are students who leave owing a couple of hundred bucks and they get turned over to collection agencies, students who walk away with poor academic standing but if they had properly withdrawn they would not have F’s. I get them through two or three committees, appeals, college offices and get everybody to coordinate for the benefit of one student.”
“I’ve been on the Committee on Academic Standing for over 20 years, which listens to appeals for students in academic distress. I started working with the Financial Aid Office five years ago reviewing financial aid appeals, as well as being a member of the Scholarship Review Committee. There are various policies (CUNY F Replacement, BCC Statute of Limitations, Pass/No Credit, First Year Freshman Forgiveness) in addition to the centrally implemented Covid-19 Grading Policy that have to be judicially applied in the best interest of the individual student. I work with a highly skilled group of colleagues reviewing and advising students, and training advisors, in the application of these policies.”
A full professor with the BCC Department of Education & Academic Literacy, Dr. Powers somehow also finds time to teach.
“I teach Introduction to Early Childhood Education and Urban Education. I supervise students working in classrooms and lead one section of the First Year Seminars. That’s absolutely one of the favorite things I do. It gives me all sorts of different students from all sorts of different majors.”
Recently, Dr. Powers help write the proposal for a grant for his department through the Perkins Foundation that provides training for a certificate in behavioral therapy and Google Classroom.
“My day is full — which is cool! Every success puts a young person back on track to get a degree.”