Katherine Richardson Bruna named Willie and Kathleen Robinson ISU 4U Promise Professor

Faculty News
By Sarah Igram

Dr. Katherine Richardson Bruna, School of Education faculty member, is the inaugural Willie and Kathleen Robinson ISU 4U Promise Professor at Iowa State University.

Announced in 2013, the ISU 4U Promise program is a partnership between Iowa State and the Des Moines Public Schools that helps pave the way to college for students at King and Moulton elementary schools. Through the program, students at these two schools can earn tuition awards to attend Iowa State. As of May 2024, eight ISU 4U Promise Scholars have graduated from Iowa State, 17 Scholars are currently enrolled, and 12 have accepted admission offers for fall 2024. In addition, seven Scholars were named to the Fall 2023 Dean’s List at Iowa State.

Kathleen Robinson provided the funding to make the ISU 4U Promise Professorship possible. She and her late husband, Willie, met at Iowa State and were married for 50 years. Kathleen taught at Moulton Elementary School, while Willie worked as the Equal Opportunity Director for the City of Des Moines for nearly 30 years. They shared a passion for the value of education, equal rights, social justice, and helping people achieve their goals.

“Willie and Kathleen Robinson have ties both to Iowa State and to the ISU 4U Promise schools, so their support in the form of this professorship conveys appreciation for the genuine partnerships we have cultivated over the program’s development thus far, recognition of its impact on youth and the community, and confidence in where the program is headed,” said Richardson Bruna, who is also the founding director of the program. “I hope the professorship signals the value in doing outreach from a relationally-engaged stance.”

Richardson Bruna became involved with the program after its inception, as its mission closely aligns with her work as an educational anthropologist. She managed logistics and fostered trust and communication with both elementary schools involved.

“[The ISU 4U Promise program] was a background fit, it was a leadership fit, it was an interest fit, and I had a really clear imagination of what it could become,” she said.

The Willie and Kathleen Robinson ISU 4U Promise Professorship honors the Robinson family’s legacy and will create opportunities for the next generation of students. With the funding from the professorship, Richardson Bruna hired a graduate assistant to research and implement outreach strategies for middle and high school students.

“In my 20 years at Iowa State, the ISU 4U Promise is the work I’m most proud of and, in terms of a meaningful contribution to this institution, it is how I will have left my mark,” Richardson Bruna said. “Building the ISU 4U Promise has been an extension of both my personal and professional histories so I feel very honored to have that synergy affirmed by the professorship.”

By Sarah Igram