Devon Powers visits Muhlenberg

Powers, Ph.D., of Temple University serves as the 2022 Sue Curry Jansen Honors lecturer.

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In Seegers Union’s Great Room, on Tuesday, Feb. 15, Devon Powers, Ph.D., associate professor of advertising and public relations  at Temple University was featured as the 2022 Sue Curry Jansen Honors lecturer. 

From the moment she stepped onto the stage, following an introduction from both Irene Chien, Ph.D., director of the media and communication honors program, and Michael Buozis, Ph.D., assistant professor of media and communication, Powers’ energetic and enthusiastic self came to light.

Taking the podium in front of Muhlenberg’s media and communication faculty members and perhaps future honors students, Powers could not stand still.

After quickly stopping to take off her black velvet jacket, throw it off to the side and roll up her sleeves, Powers was ready to commence the lecture.

Titled “How to Forecast the Future: Culture Industries and the Pursuit and Production of the Future,” it marked the first in-person media and communication honors lecture since before the pandemic. Powers immediately engaged the audience with her clear voice and the active use of her hands.

“It was a great honor to be invited to give the Sue Curry Jansen [Honors] lecture. It was particularly special as I was told it was the first time that faculty and students had gathered in person since the pandemic,” Powers said.

“It was a great honor to be invited to give the Sue Curry Jansen [Honors] lecture. It was particularly special as I was told it was the first time that faculty and students had gathered in person since the pandemic”

Similarly, Chien was honored to facilitate the organization of the event and ultimately bring Powers to campus. “It has been extremely difficult to plan in-person events during the pandemic, so being able to host Powers in the media and communication department in-person, to share spontaneous conversations and to see her engaging students, faculty and staff in all the open-ended, interstitial spaces that make up Muhlenberg campus life, was a true pleasure,” she said.

As the author of several books on the topic of trend forecasting, which according to Powers is a “cultural industry whose central purpose is to predict the future by identifying, anticipating and marketing trends to corporate clients,” her focus remains on broader cultural trends.

She moved speedily through her slides with excitement to share her experiences. Having conducted over 70 interviews with trend forecasting executives for her book “On Trend: The Business of Forecasting the Future,” Powers’ expertise in the rather unknown field was apparent.

Offering insight and simplifying the multi-million dollar industry that offers “research, strategic advisement and foresight,” students and faculty alike could be seen scribbling or typing notes and making sense of this new field.

Attending the event for an accounting class that requires presence at three professional activities throughout the semester and a subsequent report, Levi Roush ‘24 was extremely interested in Powers’ conversation about the trend forecasting industry. “Honestly, I don’t think I knew that trend forecasting was a possible career field and that in itself interested me,” he said.

““Honestly, I don’t think I knew that trend forecasting was a possible career field and that in itself interested me”

Like Roush, Cara Palumbo ‘23, who was attending the event for a class in addition to being a media services assistant, was similarly intrigued by Powers’ discussion. “I thought it was an interesting topic [and] I did think her enthusiasm helped make the topic more interesting. There’s nothing worse than teaching something you’re not enthusiastic about,” Palumbo said.

In addition to her keen ability to clearly articulate the science of forecasting, it was Powers’ unique sense of style and charisma that had a profound effect on audience members like Roush. “Her energy on the stage was so engaging and really made me want to listen and learn from her. Also, her outfit was so cool, and—dare I say—trendy,” Roush said.

With a newfound interest in the developing field of trend forecasting, Roush was particularly taken aback by some of Powers’ findings and was left thinking about what a future in the industry potentially looks like.

“I really loved Dr. Powers’ anecdote at the beginning of her lecture about her visit to The Future Laboratory in London. It seemed like a really cool, ‘trendy’ office space, which makes sense since it’s an organization that specializes in trend forecasting. It got me thinking [that] I would love to work in that kind of environment if I were to ever have an ‘office job,’” he said. “The lecture left me wanting to learn more about the career pathway of trend forecasting.”

Unlike Roush, Palumbo was left eager to learn more about forecasting and the way that it works in practice. “I would have liked it if she talked about forecasting methods rather than just forecasting itself [and the] methods she recommends when forecasting,” she said.

Nonetheless, Powers’ visit not only involved her teaching and enlightening the Muhlenberg community, but it was a time of learning for herself as well. Characterizing her trip to Allentown, Powers reflected upon the experience and spoke highly of the students she met and specifically, the time spent with Chien’s cohort of 2022 media and communication honors students following the lecture.

In all their meaningful time together, Chien also spoke highly of Powers and her ability to captivate the audience. “Devon Powers is a smart, funny and generous thinker and exuberantly communicates how exciting scholarly media & communication research can be.  I could see light bulbs go off in the responses of my first-year students for whom this was their first time attending a lecture by a visiting scholar. And she listened and spoke so attentively and directly to all the questions directed towards her during Q&A,” Chien said.

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