Associate Extension professor and Extension specialist, youth work practice
Current work, research and interests
Kate provides leadership to the understanding and development of youth work practice. She leads and consults on applied research efforts and professional development programs aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of youth work practice. Her work centers on understanding, informing and improving youth work practice. She is particularly interested in practitioner expertise, workforce development, program quality and ethics.
Most recently, Kate’s research explores the dilemmas that practitioners face in their everyday work with youth and their strategies for addressing these challenges. Currently she is principal investigator on the Pathways Project (Proyecto Caminos), a three-year study of the development of self-direction in youth-program-family interaction systems among Latino and non-Latino adolescents (with Reed Larson and Marcella Raffaelli, funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation).
Kate has over 15 years of experience conducting applied research and evaluation with youth programs. Before returning to her native Minnesota, she worked and studied at the University of Illinois, where she served as project director for The Youth Development Experience (TYDE), a qualitative study of the developmental processes that occur in youth programs. Prior to that, Kate provided evaluation support, training and technical assistance to community-based organizations.
Academic degrees and experience
- Ph.D., educational psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2005.
- M.A., educational policy and administration, University of Minnesota, 1998.
- B.A., psychology and French, Gustavus Adolphus College, 1993.
Larson, R., Walker, K., Rusk, N., & Diaz, L.B. (2015). Understanding youth development from the practitioner’s point of view: A call for research on effective practice. Applied Developmental Science, 19(2), 74-86.
Walker, K. & Larson, R. (2012). Youth worker reasoning about dilemmas encountered in practice: Expert-novice differences. Journal of Youth Development, 7(1).
Walker, K. (2011). The multiple roles that youth development program leaders adopt with youth. Youth & Society, 43(2), 635-655.
Walker, K. & Saito, R. (2011). You^th are here: Promoting youth spaces through community mapping. Afterschool Matters, 14(30-39).
Larson, R. & Walker, K. (2010). Dilemmas of practice: Challenges to program quality encountered by youth program leaders. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45(3), 338–349.
Walker, K. (2007). Youth empowerment evaluation: Learning voice. American Journal of Evaluation, 28(3), 321-326.
University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus