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CSHPE Professor Emerita Establishes the Patricia M. King Early Career Professional Development Fund for Master’s Students

When she retired from the Marsal School in 2021, Professor Emerita Pat King knew she wanted to continue to give back to the community that had given her so much

Pat King
Patricia M. King

“I was always so appreciative of the variety of perspectives that students brought and their passion for contributing to help make other students' lives better in one way or another,” says King. The Early Career Professional Development Fund she recently established will support master’s students’ involvement in professional development activities designed to help them better understand and promote college students’ learning and development.

With a background in student affairs, King has long been aware that learning environments extend well beyond the classroom. As an undergraduate at Macalester College, King herself gained valuable experience through being a resident assistant in housing, a research assistant for an English professor, and a tutor for children from under-resourced communities in Minneapolis. 

Tutoring provided “a firsthand experience with programs designed to address the inequities in learning environments,” King recalls, and motivated her to earn her teaching certificate. 

Later on, she coordinated the St. Paul Public Schools’ “Poets in the Schools” Program, a series of school residencies funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Seeing how the students responded to the visiting poets and some of the other classroom experiences helped inform her decision to pursue a doctoral degree to further understand how students learned, the role of development in learning, and ways instructors could better link learning and development in their teaching. “Once I got into classes on these topics, I was completely hooked.”

King completed her doctoral studies in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota and went on to serve in research, administrative, and teaching positions at several universities before joining the Marsal School in 2000. Over the course of her tenure working with graduate students at the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education (CSHPE), King’s teaching and research focused on the learning and development of college students and on learning environments that promote cognitive, identity, and sociomoral development. As a faculty member, she was especially interested in approaches to student learning that explore the interactions between student characteristics and features of their learning environments, whether in curricular, co-curricular, or personal contexts. 

Because most CSHPE master’s students typically complete their degree in less than two years, King wanted to find a way to enhance their time in the program.

“A lot gets packed into that time,” she says, “including time to let the big ideas sink in and to get a variety of experiences. I was aware that many students had financial constraints that kept them from being able to take full advantage of the opportunities available.” 

In establishing this professional development fund, King hopes the financial assistance will allow CSHPE master’s students to choose practice-based activities that will add meaningfully to their professional preparation. She notes that attending conferences and joining national and international professional associations is particularly important for graduate students to gain perspective on their own university experiences.

“Being active in professional organizations allows you to meet people from all over who have different kinds of interests,” says King. “One might encounter colleagues who want to work in admissions, housing, sports management, or with students who have been minoritized and marginalized. You put all of these people with different areas of focus and interest together— people from different institutions or from different parts of the country or the world—and the opportunities to learn just explode. This kind of learning also encourages students to reflect on their own experiences and choices, as well as their career goals.”

Research for Undergraduate Math Education Conference
Natalie Drobny (AM ’23) (right) presenting along with Emma Thomas (AM ’22) at the 2023 Research for Undergraduate Math Education Conference.

Natalie Drobny (AM ’23), a CSHPE master’s student focused on student access and success, is the inaugural beneficiary of the Patricia M. King Early Career Professional Development Fund. 
In February 2023, she attended the Research for Undergraduate Math Education Conference, where she gave a poster presentation on research she has been conducting with Associate Professor Maisie Gholson. By examining which students are encouraged or discouraged to pursue math, their work aims to find ways to ensure that math learning spaces are equitable and inviting.

“The most helpful part of going to the conference was hearing people share their reactions to our research,” says Drobny. She absorbed the suggestions of fellow attendees who offered points to look at next, and aspects of the research the team might analyze further. “The opportunity to present was really important because it allowed me to reflect on my own advising practice. I think it could also benefit the community of advisors at large once we continue to analyze and publish our results.”

Drobny is well positioned to contribute to that community: prior to her spring graduation, she had already begun an academic advising position in the College of Literature, Science, & the Arts. 

King emphasizes that the fund—which she has endowed so that it will provide assistance in perpetuity—was designed for master’s students who aim to hold student-facing roles in higher education when they graduate. In that way, she hopes it will make a lasting impact—not just for the graduate students who benefit directly, but for the many students they will serve through the course of their careers.

“Professional development opportunities are such a great way to meet other people and explore our academic interests outside the classroom,” says Drobny. “They can also be a really powerful way to reflect on what path we’d like to forge moving forward. I am super excited that CSHPE is able to support students in this way.”

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