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Ph.D. Student, Michele Watkins-Branch Awarded Two Doctoral Fellowships

August 20, 2014

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary Ph.D. student, Rev. Michele Watkins-Branch has been awarded both the Fellowship for Doctoral Students of African Descent from the Forum for Theological Education (FTE) and the Dempster Graduate Fellowship from the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Watkins-Branch is Ph.D. candidate in theology and ethics, and her current dissertation title is “Toward a Socialized Soteriology: Saving Black Souls and Black Bodies.”

“It was with God’s grace and the support of my adviser, Dr. Stephen G. Ray, Jr., and President Lallene J. Rector, that I have been blessed to receive the Dempster Fellowship and the Fellowship for Doctoral Students of African Descent,” said Watkins-Branch. “I am honored and humbled for the outpouring of support to finish my doctoral work.”

As an FTE Doctoral Fellow, Watkins-Branch will receive a living stipend of up to $20,000 to support her studies. She joins the first class of Fellows to receive a doctoral fellowship following the launch of FTE’s new doctoral initiatives in October 2013. FTE’s doctoral initiatives foster diversity in the academy by accelerating the successful completion of Ph.D. degrees among students of African, Latino/a, Asian and First Nations descent by providing them with financial support, a network of peers, a community of mentors and professional development opportunities.

“The quality of theological education in the 21st century will depend on the presence of theological educators who make a life of faith, church and the academy relevant to the increasingly diverse and complex world we live in,” said Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Matthew Wesley Williams. “FTE is proud to support these wise, faithful and courageous rising scholars.”

Named for the Rev. John Dempster, a pioneer in United Methodist theological education and the first president of Garrett Biblical Institute, the Dempster Graduate Fellowship seeks to increase the effectiveness of teaching in United Methodist schools of theology by assisting worthy Ph.D. students, like Watkins-Branch, who are committed to serving the church through theological education. Fellowships are based on the student’s academic achievement, their commitment to Christian ministry, and their promise as educators, and carry a value of up to $10,000 annually, with a maximum of $30,000 over a five-year period. The fellowships are funded by the Ministerial Education Fund through the Division of Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Watkins-Branch holds a Master of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical, a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Howard University in Washington, DC, and a Certification in Non-Profit Management from the Garrett-Evangelical and Kellogg School of Business joint program at Northwestern University. Watkins-Branch is a provisional elder in the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church and is appointed to SBC21 (Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century) as a part of the Academy of Interns program.