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Espresso with Monica Powell - Part 1

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Who is Dr Monica S. Powell? She recently was promoted to senior associate dean at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, and she continues to be the dean in charge of JSOM’s graduate programs. That and…? Well, there is so much more about her that you don’t know yet. Wait till you read this light interview (aka Part 1) and a more intense one (aka Part 2) next week, to find out just how awesome she is.

Q) What are the top four things on your bucket list?

  • See America — I had to move all over the world growing up, and there is still a great deal in the U.S. I have never seen.
  • Go to Alaska — I really want to see a polar bear in the Arctic.
  • See wild animal in their habitat.
  • Get a hair makeover. (People keep kidding me that I have had the same hairdo for more than 30 years now.)

Q) As a high school kid what was Monica Powell known for?

The problem here is I have been in way too many high schools. I was a cheerleader and an award-winning debater.

Q) Your celebrity crush is?

Harrison Ford! In “Air Force One,” I love his dialogue, “Get off my plane!” In fact I have always wanted to use that phrase for some purpose.

Q) Your energy is infectious. Where does Monica Powell get all her energy?

I have been this way forever. I feel it has to be born in you. Part of it comes from my childhood, too, because my parents were always measuring productivity. They kept asking what we got done. Idleness was simply not allowed. There was no kicking back and relaxing. The one rule that I follow to this day is, I better be productive or else mom is going to put me in time out!

Q) I spoke with a couple of people about you, and every one immediately smiled and said that it is such a joy to work with you. What is the big secret?

What we do here is really hard, so I make sure that we have some fun — no, a lot of fun doing it. We make people realize that it is OK for people to fail, and when they realize that, anything is possible. I don’t want anyone to limit themselves for fear of failing.

Q) Monica Powell’s rule of thumb to stay happy and young (forever) is?

I can give you a simple three-pronged approach:

  • I go to bed at 10:17 and get up at 5:32.
  • I smile at every opportunity that I get.
  • I believe that cheerfulness breeds cheerfulness.

Q) Four quirky things that JSOMers should know about Monica Powell are?

  • I can never get a cliché right! I am not sure why, but I put my ducks in a basket instead of a row! I tend to mess up all clichés, every single time.
  • I don’t eat regularly. I tend to go days with little food, and then I eat like a maniac.
  • I love, love, love lobster.
  • I love guessing outcomes. I always make my staff pick a number when we are guessing number of people who we expect at orientation or an event. (I lose most of the times though).

Q) Some style tips for the JSOM ladies out there?

Scarves…they always make something plain look extraordinary. During winter, you can spot me wearing a different color scarf every day.

Q) Any crazy memorable experience in a foreign land that stands out?

I have taken students on over 40 international trips during my career. I have traveled to China, Hong Kong, Japan, England, Belgium, France, Spain and more.

One of the most memorable moments was landing in Japan a month after the nuclear disaster that resulted from the 2011 earthquake. I was waiting for a flight to Hong Kong with the students, when a 6.8 aftershock hit the terminal. The floor rolled in waves, and some students were knocked to the floor. The students were pleading with me to get the airline to take off sooner. The turmoil did not end there. Another aftershock hit as the plane rolled down the runway.

Q) Pop Quiz — Name the following:

One Taylor Swift song? - Shake it off something?

Your favorite song? - Phillip Phillips’ “Home”

Your favorite place in JSOM? – The window sill next to Jason’s Deli, watching all the students walk by.

The happiest place on earth? – It is not a place to me, but it is the time when I have my husband, children, grandchildren around me. Not when they are paying any attention to me, but tiny things like my daughter arguing an impressive position on an important issue, my son trying to fix something, my grandchildren running around. When they are near me, and I am watching them live their lives, just knowing that I had the privilege of being in their lives.

Q) What is your favorite American tradition, and what is the one thing that you would urge all the international students to experience in U.S.?

Experience an American Thanksgiving. It is my absolute favorite holiday. It is all about being thankful for all our blessings and for this great country in which we live. When I was a kid and lived outside of the U.S., my military father would round up any miscellaneous Americans he could find and invite them to our house. We would all be required to tell each other what we were most thankful for. I remember one year, living in Iran, one member at the table said they were really thankful for American-style toilets. It was priceless.

Q) Everyone agrees that you have a great sense of humor. Tell us a joke that cracks you up every single time you hear it.

When my son was in his second grade, his school had a joke day. He could not find a joke, and suddenly he came home, and told me the following:

Q: Where do sheep go for vacation?

A: To the baaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhamas.

It became my all-time favorite joke the next instant.

Q) Name five things or words that make Monica Powell happy.

  • Time with my husband of 34 years.
  • Time with my grown kids and grandkids.
  • Chocolate.
  • Time with Lisa Shatz, Tom Kim and Shawn Alborz, my three dear, dear friends.
  • Banana splits – I love, love, love them!

Q) Name five things Monica Powell needs to have in her office bag.

I keep so much in my purse that it is often referred to as luggage. If you are looking for something while at school and can’t find it, then come look in my purse. You name it; I have it.

Q) You have recently taken to Twitter and Instagram. How do you like them, and what is your advice to the baby boomers out there who detest social media?

Just practice. It is tough, I agree, but keep practicing, and you will get the hang of it.

Professor Monica’s awesomeness does not quite end here. More awe-inspiring moments await, as we return next week with our second and final installment of this interview with JSOM’s amazing Associate Dean, Monica Powell.

Devi Priya Karuppiah

Devi Priya Karuppiah

Devi is a graduate student in the ITM program at the Naveen Jindal School of Management and is currently serving as a research assistant. She previously worked as a technical writer. She calls herself a right brained, ambiverted-neophile. She loves spending her time trying out new things and aspires to write a book someday! Read more articles

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