Leanne C. Powner

 
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Personal Background and Unrelated Interests


Hello! This page has some general information about me as a person rather than me as an academic. (Yes, what a surprise - Academics are people too!)

As you might have guessed, I've got a bit of a snarky sense of humor. I tend to keep people laughing, especially in small groups. I don't believe a day is complete unless you've had a good laugh. My humor can be somewhat random at times and often involves a lot of exaggeration or sarcasm, so consider yourself forewarned.

I was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania, in a soon-to-decline steel town about 20 minutes west of Pittsburgh. As a result, I bleed black and gold; I am a rabid Steelers fan. (If you are from the Cleveland area, I may not be able to talk to you or be friends with you if you support the Klowns -- er, I mean Browns. It's nothing personal, just so you know.) On Sunday afternoons and evenings, and Monday nights - and lately Saturdays too now that I've got a college team to root for - you will find me plopped in an armchair watching the game(s). Do not touch my Terrible Towel without permission. I can talk football almost as well as most guys, which several (male) students and friends have asked me not to do in their presence as they find it "unnatural." Myself, I don't really understand what's unnatural about it, especially not for someone who studies strategic interaction. Football is a lot like world politics, except that the anarchy is gone. 

Honestly, what fascinates me the most about football, I think, and which will definitely confirm my bernerd status to anyone who doubted it, is the statistical operation. The nerd in me is just amazed by the size and structure of the database the NFL must have to track some of those stats: player level, game level, team level, league level, bilateral (inter-team), coach-level, etc. I have no idea what use some of these statistics have ("The Steelers are 1-and-2 all-time against left-handed quarterbacks in away games in the rain" - meanwhile all three games were against the same southpaw whose team no longer exists and who personally died 20 years ago, so what exactly does that stat tell us?), but it's fascinating all the same to think about what they must have to do to calculate these things.

My parents and my one remaining grandparent still live in the Pittsburgh area; I visit there regularly (free laundry, real food, a hot tub, a puppy to cuddle, what more can one ask for?). My little sister is a teacher in Erie, PA.

In other family matters, I'm an amateur genealogist for the US branch of the Powner family and also for the Hrenkevich family. I welcome contacts with other family historians who have information on the Powner, Hrenkevich, Swedron, Wasko, or Horlick families. I know there are some UK-based genealogists who have fairly extensive records on the Powners, but I haven't been able to make contact with anyone there to try to connect our trees. I've got some decent records on the paternal sides through Harry George Powner (b. mid-1840s), but know little or nothing about wives' sides or what happened to some of these folks; in return, I've got extensive records on the US branch of the Powners (descended from George Harry Powner, who emigrated in 1923). Please drop me a line at LPowner@umich.edu if you have information.

To the extent that academics can be said to have spare time, my other spare time activities involve being a lifetime member of Girl Scouts of the USA, extensive crocheting (and a bit of knitting), and downhill skiing as time and weather allow. I crank out probably 3-4 full-size crocheted afghans and at least that many baby blankets in a given year (I have perfected watching football and crocheting at the same time, and can even often crochet and read at the same time if it's not too complex a pattern or book). I am obsessed with Harry Potter and have read all of the books in English and in French. My rationale was, if you need to get your language skills back to a functional level (and I did), you need to use something fun or you won't be motivated to keep up with it. Harry did the trick for me, though I'll admit that the first chapter of the first book is a bit of a doozy with all that description. I picked up a new young adult series in French when I was at the EUSA conference in Montreal a couple years ago; I'm now reading at the proficiency of a 13 year old (woohoo!!). My goal is to get good enough to read grown-up books by next August. I've also resumed ballet after a very long hiatus. I'm enjoying the workout, and I'm liking dance even more now since we started doing pointe. I was on pointe for a couple years when I was a teenager, but I'm actually better at it now than I was then. In fact, I've even been doing the entire class - barre, centre, and everything - in my pointe shoes. Unlike previous pairs, these are virtually invisible - there's no pain, no discomfort, no blisters, no nothing. Just the kind of glorious freedom that dancing on pointe provides.

In the wackiest development of all, I appear to have begun writing a musical in my bits of "spare time." It's tentatively titled A Day in the Life of a Parking Space and gives a snapshot of lives that intersect around a particular parking place in a declining or transforming urban center. I've never learned music theory, I generally don't like plays, I've never written a song before or anything that involves character development (arguments, yes; characters, no), and I'm a barely-adequate self-taught piano player. How exactly this is going to work I don't know, but too much of it came to me - song snippets, the set, the characters and plot line - for me to let it go. We'll see what happens. It's very clearly not a commercially viable show; it's very clearly written by a social scientist. Lesson: Never mix the two.

Some pictures:


My family at my cousin's high school graduation.


With the family at Long Beach, CA


With my late grandfather Les Powner


Touring the UN with Adri (left) and Carmen
(What real IR geek can go to NYC without visiting the UN?)


The entire Hrenkevich family
(Too many Powners to do this - we don't all fit!)


With Velvet, my parents' puppy

School of International Service - American University - 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20016-8071
Site designed and maintained by Leanne Powner, Powner@american.edu. Last updated 15 September 2009.