NECPA Note

ACPA Award Winner Spotlight- Katie Branch

Name/Institution/Title:

Katie Branch, University of Rhode Island, Associate Professor (she/her/hers)

ACPA Award You Received:

Annuit Coeptis Senior Professional

What and/or who inspired you to pursue higher education as a profession, and how did you get into your current functional area?

When I was an undergraduate, my residence hall director introduced me to key issues in the field, several local student affairs leaders, and the idea of pursuing graduate education. He showed me how my employment and involvement as an undergraduate related to a career in student affairs. While I initially worked in my bachelor’s disciplines (journalism & photography) — I worked for The Inquirer; no, it was not that Enquirer! — I returned to school for a master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs. It was during my master’s program at Ohio State University, that a faculty member suggested I might someday become a faculty member. While I was not sure until later in my career that is what I wanted, the seed was planted! After gaining post-master’s experience in various positions, including at the University of Maine, I earned my PhD in Higher Education and Student Affairs at Indiana University. I then transitioned into a full-time, tenure track faculty position at the University of Rhode Island and eventually also served as the College Student Personnel program’s director from 2007-2016.

How did you get involved with ACPA, and what keeps you involved?

I became involved via the State of Ohio chapter of ACPA, which was where I earned my master’s degree and held my first full-time position in student affairs. At that time, active participation in both the state chapter and overarching ACPA organization was encouraged and modeled. What has kept me involved are the espoused and enacted values of the organization, what I learn by participating in the professional development offered (e.g., conferences, institutes, Journal of College Student Development, About Campus), and the relationships I have formed.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career (so far)?

Just one? Perhaps it is “Do your homework!” does not stop when formal schooling ends — and nearly always leads to deeper understanding, stronger relationships, and progress on long-term outcomes.

Outside of higher education, what makes you tick?

Staying aware of and connected to broader societal issues, including pop culture, keeps me charged up. Time with friends, family, and in nature keeps me centered.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with NECPA members?

Because of the many positive role models and colleagues that I had in this profession, I have been able to engage in similar ways with students and alumni. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to all who have contributed to my receiving this recognition: Providence has, indeed, smiled upon that which we have begun (i.e., annuit coeptis).

ACPA Award Winner Spotlight- Dr. Sue Saunders

Name/Institution/Title:

Dr. Sue Saunders. Extension Professor Emeritus, University of Connecticut

ACPA Award You Received:

Esther Lloyd-Jones Professional Service Award

What and/or who inspired you to pursue higher education as a profession, and how did you get into your current functional area?

I was inspired to get in to student affairs after much depression, confusion and many majors in undergraduate school. With the help of the Ohio University Counseling Center, I determined that counseling and student affairs was worth a try. And that profession was worth it—for 40+ years. I’ve had more than a few functional areas. But my most treasured role was a faculty member—inspired by Ted Miller and Roger Winston.

How did you get involved with ACPA, and what keeps you involved?

Serving ACPA was an expectation of my mentors. So naturally, I complied. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the joy of service. My professional associates in ACPA became more like family—in large part because of the inclusive and “whole-person” culture of the organization.

Outside of higher education, what makes you tick?

Singing, history, and volunteering.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with NECPA members?

Serve beyond your job description and listen beyond your comfort zone.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career (so far)?

To listen and try to understand from multiple perspectives.