Gustie of the Week: Katie Rhoten

Senior Katharine “Katie” Rhoten is a double major in both Dance and Psychology. She is the co-president of the Gustavus Dance Company, the Gustie Greeter programs chair and the education director for the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. Rhoten is from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, two and a half hours away from Gustavus.
Rhoten chose Gustavus after touring the campus three times. At first, she did not know anything about Gustavus but upon the second tour, she felt compelled by the school’s sense of community. She stayed overnight for the third tour, which sealed the deal on her decision to attend Gustavus.
“I came back for a third time and then did an overnight and think that was when I really felt the community environment and that was something I knew I wanted for a college,” Rhoten said.
Over the course of her time at Gustavus, Rhoten has been a part of the Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology, and she has also been an undergraduate research assistant for the center of developmental science. Last summer she did an undergraduate research program sponsored by the National Science Foundation at the University of Delaware.
Rhoten’s experience at the undergraduate research program sparked her interest in psychology research.
“That [the undergraduate research program] kind of really sparked a fire of research, and that became like a new interest of mine. It was kind of like oh, this is a possibility, but never like whoa, this is so cool that I kind of nerded out for a bit,” Rhoten said.
With research experience under her belt, Rhoten hopes to go to grad school and do work concerning children. Her interest in working with children relates back to her childhood and her philanthropic work.
Rhoten started her own charity called Katharine’s Wish. The philanthropy started when Rhoten was nine years old, the year she was diagnosed with type-one diabetes. She was on vacation to Walt Disney World when she fell ill and ended up in the Intensive Care Unit for three days. Every time she got a poke or shot, she received a donated stuffed animal or toy along with it. When her stay at the hospital finished, she had to ship boxes of toys and stuffed animals back to Wisconsin from Florida. She remembers feeling comforted by the fact that the toys she received had been donated by people who did not even know her.
“I told my parents like hey, can we do this [donate gifts] when we get back home and they’re like sure. So what started it all is just trying to get started with birthday presents and other gifts from family to then donate to hospitals… It’s now grown into an organization where we’ve donated over $250,000 of books, toys and financial grants to hospitals and clinics,’ Rhoten said.
The charity has since expanded to all fifty states in the United States and has a presence in Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. She plans to grow and increase their global presence while maintaining current donations.
Also a dance major, Rhoten hopes to continue dancing after dancing for 19 years and possibly become a dance teacher.
Rhoten gives some advice to students:
“Definitely get involved… in reflective experience… I feel like I’ve grown in myself here. I think that was a large part because of my involvement here on campus,” Rhoten said.

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