SMWC professor honored at international conference

News | 06.16.2017
Debra Powell receiving award
Debra Powell, assistant professor of equine studies, was recognized for her contributions to the industry as a writer for Arabian Finish Line magazine during World Arabian Horse Racing Conference at Morocco in May.

By Katie Shane

It’s not every day that your job takes you more than 4,000 miles away from home, but for Debra Powell a trip across the Atlantic Ocean to Morocco, is all part of the job description.

Powell, assistant professor of equine studies at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC), just returned to campus after spending more than a week at the exclusive World Arabian Horse Racing Conference, part of the Sheik Mansoor Festival. 2017 is the seventh year for the event, which brings together equine professionals from six different continents to teach, expand and preserve Arabian Horse Racing and the surrounding industry.

During the conference, Powell was recognized for her contributions to the industry as a journalist for Arabian Finish Line magazine. She was given an award during one of the evening dinner programs. She said her column, called Equi-tech, focuses on equine related therapy and other techniques. Many of the topics are assigned by her editor, but when she’s given freedom on topics she works to incorporate her students from SMWC. Many of the students have also been featured in photos used for the column.

“It is a big honor just to be invited,” Powell said about the conference. “It was great to be recognized in that venue with everybody else; I was surprised I was there with a lot of folks that have been in this industry a whole lot longer.”

Powell began writing the column to expand her knowledge base. Because of the column, she was asked to attend the conference and was featured on a panel of women in the industry. Powell sat with five other women to speak on specific areas of expertise, and to promote women in the male-dominated field.

“Part of the panel was meant to expose how important women are in racing,” she explained.

Debra Powell kneeling next to camelWhile speaking on the panel about her column and equine therapy, Powell says she also discussed how the industry can bring in more of an audience from the United States. She says she also used her time on the panel to promote the specialized majors and programs offered at SMWC’s Equine Studies.

 “… What I am hoping to do is to promote The Woods globally,” Powell said. “When I can go to these conferences I want to use that position as global promotion of the program and show the students that not only are we known locally in this area but we are also known around the world.”

The column is just one of the avenues Powell uses to not only further the industry, but also to advance her students. Powell says she wants to specifically give other women the chance to understand what opportunities are available.

Powell may be relatively new to the world of Arabian Horse Racing, but her overall work in the horse industry is extensive. When she joined SMWC’s faculty a little over two years ago, she brought experience, knowledge and a diverse background. In addition to being a professor and writer, she is a certified equine and canine message therapist and the owner of her own company Powell’s Equine and Canine Therapeutic Services (PECTS). Powell, who received a master’s degree from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky, has traveled the U.S. working in animal therapy. She even worked with the animal athletes at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Next year’s World Arabian Horse Racing Conference will be in Madrid, Spain and Powell says she hopes she isn’t the only attendee from SMWC at the conference. She’s already working on establishing a student travel program for undergraduates to experience the conference and expose them to the numerous aspects of the industry.