International author and equine professor brings expertise to SMWC equine students

March 16th, 2016 | SMWC

By: Marjorie Hopkins

"Always do no harm, do good and love God" - Debra Powell

Debra Powell and Students
Debra Powell, Ph.D., assistant professor of equine studies at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

It was a win-win situation when Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) hired Debra Powell, Ph.D., as assistant professor of equine studies for the institution’s Mari Hulman George Equine Studies Program. It was also a win for Powell, who once again was in academia – and not just academia – but at SMWC – the only college in Indiana to offer a bachelor’s degree in equine studies.

Powell said she has always been interested in the health aspect of animals. She received her bachelor’s degree in biological science from Hampton University of Illinois and master’s degree in equine nutrition and exercise physiology from the University of Illinois as well as her Ph.D. in equine nutrition and exercise physiology from the University of Kentucky. She served as associate professor in the equine department of The Ohio State University-ATI for six years.

However, Powell's training goes even beyond that education, including therapeutic modalities. Powell has also been a certified equine and canine massage therapist since 1995 and is trained in a plethora of other specialties. She began her own company, Powell's Equine and Canine Therapeutic Services (PECTS), in 1999. Her company, which she now maintains on a part-time basis since returning to teaching, focuses on providing up-to-date physical evaluation and rehabilitation treatment to increase the rate of healing, promote faster return to function and prevention of injury in horses, dogs and cattle.

She said you should always know your options. "There are effective alternatives and complimentary procedures to medications and injections," she said.

"I try to do things that decrease the need for medications. I help the body help itself to heal," she said. Powell's soft-spoken manner and relaxing demeanor helps the animals relax as she works with them to get the most from their treatments. While working full-time at her business, Powell traveled extensively, servicing international contracts in such places as Japan and Brazil, South America. She has also served as an animal therapist in the Olympic games in London, England, and currently she writes a monthly column for the International magazine, "Arabian Finish Line," where she often features photos of her Saint Mary-of-the-Woods students working with horses.

Debra Powell, Ph.D., assistant professor of equine studies at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, shows students (l to r) Sarah Hardin, Vivian Hansen and Noelle Hingsbergen, the skeletal system of a horse.

Although she loved the work she was doing at PECTS, she said she missed the students and the college atmosphere that she had once experienced. She said one of the best things is that she can bring her dog to work with her every day. You'll almost never see her without Xander by her side. The classrooms and labs are designed to bring in horses for teaching classes, and the small student-to-professor ratio is another plus, offering a more intimate teaching environment. Powell's varied past experiences are a sort of bridge for the students to use. They can see beyond the college experience to what the future might hold for equine students.

"I have a lot of stories to tell them from my experiences," she said of her students, and Powell knows a lot of places and people who can provide internship and employment possibilities for her students. She brings such a wealth of equine studies to the college – much more than just degrees in equine science.

Powell claims the motto, "Always do no harm, do good and love God" – a perfect motto for this Catholic College. You could say that the match between Powell and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods was a match almost made in heaven.