Reflections on Transitioning to Retired President of APUS

retired president of APUS Karan PowellOn September 29, APEI CEO Dr. Wally Boston sent the following email to staff:

After 15 years of distinguished service to APUS as a trustee, dean, provost, and president, Dr. Karan Powell informed the Board of Trustees and me that she is retiring from APUS effective October 15. While her term was scheduled to run through June 30, 2018, Karan and the Board considered the importance of launching a search as soon as possible given the reaccreditation visit with the HLC currently scheduled in August of 2018. During the remainder of her term through June 2018, Dr. Powell will work on transition activities including: providing consulting services, representing APUS in the higher education community as an ambassador of good will, and providing guidance on accreditation related matters as requested.

So today, October 16, 2017, is my first day as APUS “president (retired)”. While moving on from APUS is bittersweet, the decision of the board to search for a new president now rather than in June 2018, on the eve of our Higher Learning Commission accreditation site visit, is the right decision for APUS. As I have said to the leadership team and staff in the past two weeks, my aim was to build a strong university by helping build strong leaders. That legacy lives on in them and the opportunity they now have to lead and take the university to the next level, and I look forward to celebrating this legacy next spring with the larger APUS community.

My decision to retire now, rather than upon the arrival of my successor, is likewise a good decision for me personally. I am in the process of figuring out what being “retired” means as it is still new to me and yet the experience feels no different from being  provost or president for the first time and asking myself, so what does it mean to be a dean? A provost? A president? Now, the question is, what does it mean to be retired?

I am reminded of a story Edie Seashore (a former colleague and mentor remembered with affection) once told me more than 25 years ago about the reason she would give when asked what she was going to do in retirement. She was very active in mentoring and leading in the organization development community, and would respond, “What do you do when you retire?” The response she would receive is “You do what you love,” and her reply was, “Then I am retired!”

I remember Edie a great deal these days as I reflect on what retirement means to me and what I will do in retirement. For now (day one), per Wally’s message, I continue as a consultant and ambassador for APUS which includes continuing this blog—I actually aim to have more time to write, which I enjoy doing. I intend to have fun and “do what I love,” which includes spending time with family, especially my husband, son and elderly parents; traveling; continuing my work as a member of the HLC peer review corps; writing (I have a couple of potential books in mind); and focusing on coaching leaders and executives, especially women. More about these topics in the coming weeks and months.

My 15 years at APUS have been a gift in many ways and my work here has certainly been much more than a job. Living and leading a mission to “educate those who serve,” working with talented and committed faculty and staff, getting to know students and alums, as well as working with our partners and colleagues, all underscore how my time with APUS has been a transformative time in my life and for this organization. I will certainly miss the day-to-day interactions and look forward to the continued growth of APUS and service of its mission, as well as to continued relationships with colleagues and friends.

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