Wednesday, March 24, 2021

By: Claire Quigle

Katharine Broton has already made a big impact in her area of research.

Broton, an assistant professor in Higher Education and Student Affairs examines the role of poverty and inequality in higher education as well as policies and programs designed to minimize disparities and promote college success. In particular, she studies how students pay for college and what happens when they can’t make ends meet, including experiences of food and housing insecurity.

Broton’s dedication to her research was recently recognized when she received the Recognizing Research and Innovation Excellence Early Career Scholar of the Year award. Broton received the award from the University of Iowa Office of the Vice President for Research. A staff member, postdoctoral scholar, and graduate student from the UI College of Education also received recognition.

The Early Career Scholar of the Year award honors assistant professors in tenure-track, research-track, or clinical-track positions at the UI who are currently involved in research, scholarship, or creative activity and show promise of making a significant contribution to their field.

One of Broton’s nominators wrote, “I think it is important to note that Katie is having a strong and growing presence in the world of practice while maintaining the highest standards of rigor in her research. She is a highly trained and capable social researcher. She has high standards of scholarship, solid academic values, and a tireless work ethic.”

Broton joined the College of Education’s Department of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies in 2017. She is also affiliated with the college’s Center for Research on Undergraduate Education and has a courtesy appointment in the Department of Sociology.

“It’s an incredible honor, acknowledging the importance of my decade-long scholarship on this topic,” Broton says. “The award also provides an opportunity to reflect upon all of the support and guidance I have received along the way.” 

Throughout her years of research, Broton’s work has been cited in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, U.S. News and World Report, PBS, and many other outlets. She has delivered keynote addresses at several conferences, including one in South Africa.

One nominator wrote that Broton has worked to improve policy and practice with several agencies in the U.S. federal government including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Education, and the Government Accounting Office. She has met with the staff of U.S. senators and congresspeople to discuss ways of reducing food insecurity to improve college student success. 

Another nominator wrote, “She is on a fast track to becoming the leading voice on student housing insecurity in the nation and continues to develop both her scientific and public portfolios at an impressive clip.”

Broton gives credit to students as her source of inspiration.

“So many college students have been generous in sharing their lived daily experiences with scholars like myself, explaining how they juggle work and school, care for others in their family, or cut back on groceries to pay for textbooks,” Broton says. “I think it’s important to help others understand what it’s like for today’s college students and find ways to help students reach their education goals, by studying which programs and policies actually work to support students.”

While Broton is proud of the work she has done, she says there is still a lot of work to do.

“Too many students are going without meeting their basic needs while pursuing higher education. The FIRED (Food Insecurity Research, Engagement, and Dissemination) Group, which I lead, has been spearheading these efforts at the University of Iowa,” Broton says.

When Broton began her research, she focused on identifying the daily implications of college unaffordability. She raised awareness about the problems of financial and material hardship faced by college students. Now, her scholarship has expanded to create solutions and policies to address these challenges. 

Broton says her recently published book, “Food Insecurity on Campus: Action and Intervention,” is the first step in this direction.

“I wouldn’t have been able to win this award without the mentorship provided to me as well as the time and resources invested in me by other people,” Broton says. “I am incredibly grateful for that. It’s wonderful to be at the University of Iowa where my hard work and contributions are recognized and continuously benefit from amazing faculty and student colleagues.”