URI professor earns national award in student affairs

Katie Branch named Diamond Award recipient by American College of Personnel Association

By Allie Lewis

A URI College of Health Sciences professor’s dedication to engaging students and preparing them for success beyond college has earned her national recognition. The American College Personnel Association has chosen Katie Branch, Ph.D., as a 2018 Diamond Award recipient.

Branch, associate professor of Human Development and Family Studies, centers her classroom courses and her research interests around the student experience — from student development, to collegiate environments and their impacts on students, to socio-cultural diversity. Branch said she makes a concerted effort to stay current with her students and establish relationships to better inform her research and ensure her teaching methods impact students in a meaningful way.

“My general approach is to embrace students holistically and promote diversity, and follow my strong belief in human potential to really try to help people not only see their potential, but fulfill it,” Branch said. “Whether that be through me daily advising, through my courses; whether that be through being involved with programs like diversity week or the leadership minor, I always bring that really strong belief in the power of human potential.”

Branch said she cares most that her students are able to take what they learn in her classes and apply that knowledge to their own lives. To further that mission, Branch is working on a co-produced book, “Applying Student Development Theories Holistically,” which provides students with real life examples.

“It’s not only a case study of how you might apply that theory, but how professionals in the field are actually taking the theories that students are learning in class and how they’re actually using them in their daily work,” Branch said.

Such work, along with her research and teaching efforts at URI and within the American College Personnel Association, contributed to Branch’s nomination for the award. She has left an impression on the university over her two decades at URI. For nine years she served as the director for the College Student Personnel graduate program. She serves on the advisory board for the interdisciplinary minor in Leadership Studies. She’s served as co-chair of URI Diversity Week, and she’s also been a recipient of  the URI Pillar of Leadership Education Award. Her tireless efforts have earned her the respect and admiration of her colleagues.

“Dr. Branch contributes to the student affairs by adding to the body of knowledge our field relies on to advance, teaching new practitioners while simultaneously learning from them, encouraging membership and involvement with professional organizations, and sustaining an unwavering moral and ethical compass that others admire and aspire to emulate,” said Dan Taylor, assistant director of Housing and Residential Life.

Branch said she is particularly grateful to have received the 2018 Diamond Award this year because the association has a renewed focus on racial justice and decolonization. She said the topic of race is something people generally aren’t dealing with particularly well in higher education or across the country. Given her previous work in the field, she said she hopes her research can help further the imperative.

Overall, whatever Branch does in her line of research or teaching, she said her goal is always to help students.

“I would like to keep focusing on how we actually use the knowledge and information that’s being generated, and use it to empower and benefit students,” she said.

Allie Lewis is a senior intern in the Communications division of the Academic Health Collaborative.