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Interview with Harriett Haynes

March 18, 2021

In honor of Black History Month, we spoke with three PhD alumni from the Counseling Psychology program to learn about what drew them to Psychology and how they are now making an impact as professionals. They also told us about why it is essential that we work to increase Black representation in our program, the profession, and the field.

Harriett Haynes, Ph.D., ‘79

Headshot of Dr. Harriett Haynes

Harriett Haynes, Ph. D., did not intend to one day become a psychologist and in fact followed a relatively circuitous path to get there. In 1963, Haynes completed her bachelor's degree in nursing at the University of Missouri and later decided to apply to the University of Minnesota’s (UMN) graduate program in public health. When she didn’t hear back from them on her application, Haynes stated, “[I] decided to get in my car and drive up to see what the problem was. They said they mailed it [a response to her application]...but that it was coming back. For Black folks, we know what that meant. They never really sent it to me.” Nonetheless, Haynes was admitted to the program. After finishing the program, she worked as a nurse in the Twin Cities area, including at the UMN School of Nursing. Haynes described her experience there as “intense...I didn’t really like it. I also experienced racism there too.”

Haynes ultimately made the decision to go back to graduate school to pursue a doctoral degree. When trying to decide on a program, she reflected on the fact that “students spent a lot of time talking to me,” and that many came to her for grades and evaluations. So, she thought she would apply to the UMN doctoral program in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I). Her application was rejected, she was told, because there were not any faculty in the Department who wanted to supervise a nurse. Haynes decided to take a different approach to her next application - she went right to the Chair of the Psychology Department, John Darley, and asked if anyone in the Department would be interested in advising a nurse. She told Darley her story and about her interest in working with people. Darley responded that counseling psychology sounded like a good fit, so he spoke with the faculty and later called Haynes back to confirm that they had decided to admit her. Haynes laughed; “I had not even applied yet. This is back in 1969.” When she asked Darley why they had decided to admit her, he described how he wanted her to have the opportunity and that he didn’t like what the College of Education had done (the college in which C&I resides). Haynes was honest with Darley about her experiences with racism elsewhere at the University and that she “intended to be a troublemaker from now on.” Reflecting back, she commented that that probably reinforced his opinion of her because “John Darley was a troublemaker too.” After entering the program, she realized that Psychology was a perfect fit. Haynes stated, “so that’s how I chose Psychology, [but] it’s kind of like Psychology chose me.”

Haynes ultimately became the Director of UMN University Counseling Services (now Student Counseling Services) before retiring as a senior psychologist in 2011. She was initially introduced to the center via her required second year practicum there - a requirement that still exists to this day for all Counseling doctoral students. She also completed her internship there after being encouraged to apply. Haynes stated, “the experience of being an intern was just really excellent….My supervisors were excellent. The whole staff was supportive of interns….It was a wonderful experience for me.” She also commented on the support of the Psychology faculty as contributing to her successful degree completion, many of whom had close ties to UCS. After deciding that she “was a practitioner at heart,” Haynes joined UCS as a professional psychologist and was promoted through the ranks to Director, a position she served in for 15 years.

When asked how her degree in psychology prepared her for a career in that field, Haynes described,

You can use...psychology…[to work] directly with students. You can use it…[to do] workshops…[on] developmental kinds of things for students. I had training [on how to consult and] did consultation in the University community...on most campuses. I have this strong background in organizational psychology, as well as in counseling. My psychology was a good background for doing that….One of the wonderful things about counseling have the freedom to choose how to enhance your background…..I got what I needed, and if I needed more, I knew how to do professional development.

Haynes always found herself confronted with a lack of Black representation in her surroundings. She commented that Black students know that they are going to be judged and that “there is not going to be anyone there to support them...they’re going to have to do it on their own.” Haynes also talked about standardized testing as being a barrier for Black students; “For many people of color, standardized tests are a cross to bear. You’re terrified [that] you’re going to blow it, not because you’re not smart, but because it’s stacked against you.” She stated that even with high scores on standardized tests, many students of color will still “not be up there in the running.” Haynes herself received a low score on the Miller Analogies test, which was a standard test used in graduate school admission at the time. While she worried how it would affect her admission to the Psychology Department, Darley still admitted her. According to Haynes, “[the test] was predictive of basically nothing. It didn’t predict my finishing, it didn’t predict that one day I would be President of the Minnesota Psychological Association, and it didn’t predict that I would be Director of UCS.”

Haynes described that psychology programs need to be welcoming to Black students and communicate that “we’re going to judge you on your merits, we’re going to help you do the psychology, and [we’re going] to listen to say.” They also need to follow through on that promise.