College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Technical Studies Professor Daphne Powell is marking her 20th year as a college professor by taking on what she deems “the most extraordinary of her career accomplishments” to date. As the first recipient of the ‘Dr. Maureen Murphy Distinguished Professorship for Equity in Education,’ Powell is embarking on a three-year journey to engage, mobilize and challenge CSM faculty, staff, and students – as well as CSM’s regional communities – to examine, and improve, equity in education.

The goal of the Distinguished Professor program is to recognize and promote faculty excellence. It requires a minimum of a $75,000 endowment, and the distinguished professorship is awarded to exemplary faculty who have achieved the rank of full professor.

Credit: College of Southern Maryland

Murphy, who is nationally known for a career marked by her deep commitment to equity in education, is CSM’s fifth president. She initiated the endowment to establish this professorship last fall during the CSM Foundation’s annual ‘Giving Tuesday’ campaign as her legacy gift to the college and Southern Maryland. The CSM Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name this professorship for Murphy at its June meeting.

“CSM is social justice through education,” Murphy explained of her gift. “We exist solely to provide programs and services that support the social and economic mobility of people in the Southern Maryland region. We put equity in action, and the root of that action is in the classroom – irrespective of discipline – between professors and students. This work requires the continual commitment and professional development of excellent and committed faculty.”

Powell said she is honored and eager to begin the work.

“I, too, am passionate about equity and inclusion,” Powell shared. “All you have to do is look at the world around us to see the struggles that so many in our communities are still facing when it comes to issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI). We want to think that CSM students are different, but then that would mean we are functioning in a bubble.

“I love my CSM faculty and staff, and everyone I have met in my 20-year tenure here has always been friendly and respectful,” Powell continued. “As I began to give this professorship deep thought during the application process, I thought this exciting work wouldn’t be that heavy of a lift because we are all in higher academia and our goals are the same. But there is always more we can do to help our students understand their worth and help our staff and faculty create a culture of belonging.”

“I am thrilled that Professor Powell was selected for this role,” Murphy said. “She came to the application process with a thorough plan in place and the vision for the launch of this important work that matched my vision. I have the utmost confidence she is the right person to establish and lead this professorship.”  

Powell was selected to serve as the first Distinguished Professor of Equity in Education with nearly perfect rankings from among her faculty peers, explained CSM Provost and Vice President of Learning Dr. Rodney Redmond.

“Her application packet demonstrated exemplary leadership service, a deliberate focus on inclusion, and a willingness to share what she has learned with her colleagues,” said Redmond. “She is an inclusive thinker with an amazing ability to turn a vision into reality.

“During my second meeting with Professor Powell, she hit is out of the park by presenting her three-year plan,” he added. “And her inclusion shows up in her classroom, too. Professor Powell teaches a range of classes in multiple modalities in the technology department and within them all she approaches the class with a universal design approach, which is inclusive of all student needs.”

Murphy and Redmond announced Powell’s appointment to faculty and staff at CSM’s Aug. 19 all-college Convocation, during which Powell shared that she had spent the summer establishing CSM’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Faculty Leadership Team and firmed the three-year vision. It reads: “To purposefully work toward an ideal College of Southern Maryland, where faculty members are challenged to engage differences as strengths in an environment that constantly strives for equity of access, opportunity, resources, representation, and participation.”

For year one, Powell said she and her team will examine the current state of equity in education.

“We have to proceed as if we are outside eyes looking in at ourselves,” she explained. “We will sit down with our internal schools individually. I don’t want to have a big conversation with everyone because it would get too noisy. We need to break it down into consumable pieces and ask what equity and inclusion and diversity look like in our Math department, or in our Art department, or in our sports programs.”

Powell said she also wants to establish a common mantra.

“We plan to create a common vocabulary and concepts which will help faculty and staff communicate clearly and improve comprehension,” she shared. “We can’t change anything until we are aware of our current state. The most important element in this phase will be respected. We won’t necessarily be discussing everyone’s personal views. We simply need to ensure that when at CSM, everyone feels like they belong and are accepted. Who wouldn’t want this?”

For year two, Powell said she and her team aim to implement actionable steps that shift culture. These steps would include new course development and a guest speaker series open to faculty, staff, students, and the community.

“This professorship is not a solo role,” Powell shared. “I will be working with our office of diversity, equity, and inclusion and the community. We want to learn from changemakers and grow champions with our DEI work.”

Powell explained that during year three, she plans to assess.

“As the first person to have the honor to build the foundation for this work, I want to make sure our work is just that – a foundation,” she said. “We will look back and ask ourselves; ‘What worked, what didn’t work, what else is there to do?’ What societal events have occurred that we need to understand and include as part of our work? How are we setting up the next professor who takes on this work, for success?”  

During her tenure, Powell has held the positions of CSM Faculty Senate vice president, Women Interested in Technology club advisor, and Promotion Committee chair. She was born and raised in Southern Maryland having attended Gwynn Park High School, and Frostburg State College for her bachelor’s degree and obtained her master’s degree from Townson University.

When Murphy established the endowment last fall, she challenged the community, faculty and staff to help her build the fund by providing a dollar-for-dollar matching gift.

According to CSM Foundation Executive Director Chelsea Clute, it was the quickest an endowment of this size has been funded in the history of the Foundation’s fundraising efforts – thanks in part to the generosity of the Nancy Stevens McMullin Estate. CSM received $565,000 in gifts from Foundation Director Emeritus Evie Hungerford, who managed the McMullin estate and provided the final donation needed to fully award the professorship.

Learn more about CSM’s commitment to combatting inequity and injustice in all forms and review the college’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Dashboard at https://www.csmd.edu/about/diversity/index.html.

The CSM Foundation, a nonprofit, 501(c)3 charitable organization established in 1970, helps increase access to higher education at CSM through scholarship funding and assures the excellence of that education by raising and managing funds for college projects and objectives – including workforce development in Southern Maryland. The CSM Foundation is comprised of a tri-county, all-volunteer board of directors. Learn more about the Foundation at https://www.csmd.edu/foundation/index.html.


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