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Karen Branden, ‘Guaranteed to be entertaining’


Most students have been in a class sometime in their college career with the monotone professor that makes showing up quite a feat. Karen Branden is the exact opposite.

Branden, a sociology professor, is a favorite of many students with her upbeat, engaging classes who has carried her educational teaching not only to MSUM but internationally as well.

A faculty at MSUM for seven years, Branden took a sabbatical in 2009 to live in Uganda for five months to teach at Kyambogo University.

“The people in Uganda are amazing and sweet and wonderful,” Branden said.

During her time in Uganda, she taught, but also did research with the United Nations World Food program focusing on people’s livelihoods in refugee camps.

“Uganda was a place of extremes for me,” Branden said. “It was extremely beautiful and the people were extremely wonderful. But it was also extremely horrible with babies and children dying of curable diseases like malaria and TB.”

Branden has long ties to MSUM as she went through the Corrick Center and went on to attain her undergraduate degree in 1991 in sociology with a minor in women’s studies.

“I had the potential to succeed but needed to work on my skills and self-esteem,” Branden said. “I had a wonderful adviser named Dr. Beverly Wesley who was a sociologist. I loved her classes. She taught me to believe that I could succeed in college… The Corrick Center and MSUM showed me my potential and I have taken it around the world.”

Branden has good reviews from students. Lauren Wold, a sociology major, has taken three classes from her.

“Branden has a very laid-back, discussion-based class structure,” Wold said. “I know that any class with Branden is guaranteed to be entertaining each and every day.”

Wold said Branden goes out of her way to form close relationships with her students.

“I have told her things I would never tell any of my other professors because I trust her so much. There is no topic off subject when talking with Branden.”

Aside from her teaching, Branden has been married 17 years to MSUM professor Dennis Jacobs who teaches physics, math and astronomy. Jacobs, is also coordinating the new sustainability major that just passed through MnSCU. MSUM is the only school in the MnSCU system to have this major.

“He is wicked smart,” Branden said. “He recently converted a Volkswagen bus into an electric vehicle. He’s so cool.”

Branden and Jacobs live in a super-insulated home that uses a swimming pool as a heat sink.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Branden said. “We are trying to become carbon-free and demonstrate that you can live a high quality of life but still be respectful of the rest of the world by not over-consuming and massive polluting. We like to live what we preach.”

Branden’s words of advice to students is to follow dreams and passions.

“I’m so in love with being a Dragon,” she said.

To read more from this writer, view her blog at ericaeanderson.blogspot.com

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