After being an invaluable part of our Honors community for a little over a year now, Professor Darry Powell-Young was kind enough to sit down with me and talk about his experience at DePaul, amongst other things (he was on the Price is Right, but we’ll get into that later). Quite the impressive and inspiring figure, I was lucky to take a class with Professor Powell-Young last spring and was so happy to get to talk with him again, as every discussion ends up feeling like a lively convo between friends. From his self-designed classes, his journey before DePaul, his experience with Honors, and of course the $6,500 he won on the Price is Right, there is a lot to discuss!
A Bit about Professor Powell-Young
Originally from the South Shore, Prof. Powell-Young is Chicago born and raised. He attended Lincoln Park High School for a few years before graduating at 16, and after receiving his bachelors went back to teach for three years. He got his first taste of teaching higher ed at Roosevelt University, and quickly fell in love. Continuing throughout his time in grad school, he taught at Wayne State University (where he also completed his Ph.D. in Political Science) and the University of Michigan before finally joining us at DePaul in 2021. Having taught higher ed for 9 years now, he has taught courses on American politics, urban politics, and social science research methods and statistics, which we will delve into later on. To get to know Prof. Powell-Young a little more, check out our piece welcoming him over a year ago here!
Reflections on the Past Year
Having been here for a little more than a year, Professor Powell-Young has become a figure in our Honors community. He expressed his gratitude for the opportunities he has received here, and the feeling is mutual! Teaching in Honors and beyond in departments such as Sociology, Public Policy, and Political Science, he has the chance to interact with a wide array of students and loves being able to provide and receive new perspectives. As I know myself, his classes are very discussion based and lean heavily on Socratic seminar style, which makes for very engaging sessions. He explains how talking through these kinds of topics is crucial, especially when it comes to combining theory with practice and applying these concepts to real life. I can attest that there is an atmosphere of respect and safety to explore in his classes, and he explains how he is there to facilitate these discussions and consider all opinions. He encourages his students to engage and recognize how a space can hear disagreements while staying respectful. He also emphasized how much he learns from his students, which was one of the highlights of his year in reflection. As he always says, “I may have a Ph.D., but I don’t know everything!”
A vast majority of Professor Powell-Young work and teaching is based in anti-racism, which is increasingly invaluable work. His interest lie specifically in the intersections of race, politics, and urban spaces. His dissertation was on the Mayoral control of Chicago public schools and its impact on high school African American students, considering the inequality of funding and long history of mayoral influence on the CPS system. He explains how since the 1950s the mayor and the democratic political machine have controlled schools in Chicago, and the act in 1995 that officially gave them control led to a switch from a superintendent to a CEO, reflecting a neoliberal shift in CPS. Having both attended and worked at CPS schools, Prof. Powell-Young explained the complexities of these inequalities and how it manifests from both perspectives. He especially highlighted the inequality in AP, IB, and Honors courses, and how these inequalities affect all students from K-12 into higher ed. He concurred with the need for diversity in all aspects of education, especially in teachers and professors, and there are plenty of qualified candidates out there. He acknowledged how he is often the only black person in these educational spaces, and how this impacts the ability provide and receive a quality education. But he also highlighted his love for higher ed in that it allows for the sharing of diverse perspectives, and says that DePaul students have consistently welcomed discussions of anti-racism. Still, as always, there is room for growth and improvement.
Classes, Classes, and more Classes!
In his work to understand and critique the ways race interacts with education and policy, Professor Powell-Young teaches a variety of courses across departments, many of which he created himself. For Honors, he teaches two self-designed sections of HON 208/302: Race & Urban Public Policy and Race, Education, & Black Youth. I took the former a little less than a year ago, and it was a fascinating class. Looking at the intersection of race and public policy, we considered topics such as critical race theory, models of public policy analysis, education policy, mass incarceration, income inequality, and the politics of public housing. And we ended the class with a research paper on a course topic of our choosing with a focus on policy analysis and recommendations. I wrote mine on police brutality and reform in Chicago, and it was so interesting to delve into the history of a topic while also applying it to current situations. I often find myself frustrated when classes get bogged down in theory, so it was nice to take what we had learned and apply it to actionable ideas and potential solutions. I absolutely recommended taking a class with Prof. Powell-Young if you can, so keep an eye out for those! He will be teaching a section of HON 208/302 in the fall, as well as sociology and poli sci courses. And if you still have space in the spring, he is teaching a course on sustainable development (LSP 330) and a seminar on race and ethnic politics (LSP 200).
Outside of the classroom, Prof. Powell-Young is an avid gameshow fan. He has always loved them, and rattled off the exact playing times of all his favorite shows, including Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and, of course, The Price is Right! Last fall, while watching the Price is Right, he saw an ad calling for super fans to apply to be on the show. He sent in an application, and a few weeks later was asked to interview. Right after finishing his classes for the day, he sat in his office in our very own Honors Department and talked to the show manager. They asked him, “what do you know about the price is right?” and he recounted to me exactly what he told them: details about the original and new version of the show, running years, hosts names, and retired games. Sure enough, he was flown out in November to sit in the audience, anticipating be called up. After two guests had already played and won/lost, he was finally called up to play Plinko! Although not his all time favorite game (he loves the Grand Game), he was thrilled and ended up winning 4 out of the 5 chips. After dropping them, he landed 2 in $2500, 1 in $1000, and 1 in $500 amounting to a total of $6500! He also won a suite of apple products, including a new MacBook and a new iPhone among others. As someone not super familiar with the Price is Right, it was fascinating to hear both his extensive knowledge of the game and the surprising aspects that came with being on TV set, such as watching them move the game pieces on and off the stage. Adding Price is Right winner to the list of amazing things about Prof. Powell-Young!
Looking to the Future
Luckily, it looks like Professor Powell-Young will be a part of our Honors community for the foreseeable future! We are so grateful to have him, and wish him and his partner good luck in settling back into the city! Again, I highly recommended taking a class with Prof. Powell-Young if you get the chance! He is a wonderful professor and an amazing addition to DePaul Honors!
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