Meet Loyola’s Newest Tenured Psych Professor
CHICAGO- Her office was relatively standard; bookshelves with dozens of textbooks, white walls, and a computer. She is a Clinical Psychologist, but this is no clinic, nor is it a medical visit and any fears of doctors suddenly vanish as Dr. Noni Gaylord-Harden swivels in her chair with a bright warm smile.
Dr. Gaylord-Harden is newly tenured Associate Professor of Psychology at Loyola University of Chicago. Her current work focuses on stress and coping amongst Chicago’s African American youth.
Gaylord-Harden decided to become a clinical psychologist in the 7th grade. “I know it’s not the typical route for folks in how they find their way to psychology, but I just decided a long time ago that that’s what I wanted to do,” she says.
Her passion for her dream never subsided and years later she was interviewing for a graduate internship at the University of Illinois Chicago. “I just felt like the site was perfect for me,” she said, “this particular site was one of the few sites in the country that gave you an opportunity to do research and a great deal of their work was being done in the community so they were conducting interventions in the community to reduce violence.”
These days she is conducting her own research projects. She surveys highschool and middle school students at predominantly African American schools. At Urban Prep Academy, an all-male, and almost all African American public high school, 100% of the graduating seniors have been accepted to four year institutions for the past four years. Gaylord-Harden was asked by Urban Prep to track some of the students in an attempt to measure how and why these students are successful in school. “We study things that could get in the way of their success and also some protective factors such as peer support, parent support, academic motivation, school belongingness that could actually enhance their performance. We can determine who’s most at risk for failure, [and] who has the greatest chance of success so they can use those findings to guarantee that everyone can be successful” she said.
On campus she meets with regularly graduate and undergraduate students, some who seem to adore her. One of her graduate students, Cynthia Pierre, has known Dr. Gaylord-Harden for three years and describes her as a role-model that many students aspire to become. “We’re open to talk about anything,” she said. “She’s very balanced, I can tell that people look up to her, not only the people in our lab, but my classmates, the people who have class with her say ‘oh my god she is always so well dressed!’”
This balance can be seen in Gaylord-Harden’s home life as well. She and her husband Troy have two children. A four and a half year old girl, Saniyya, who thinks of her mom as a scientist and a teacher of really big kids. She also has a 10 month old son, Sinaan, whose name means brave in African. “When I go home it’s their time. So I don’t go home and work and I don’t work on the weekends unless everyone’s asleep, and so we do as much as we possibly can. We visit museums, the aquarium, the planetarium, we go to festivals,” she said.
Somehow in between being a mother and wife, teaching, and researching she finds time to run; a passion that began in graduate school. In high school, Gaylord-Harden ran in track among other sports. She admits though, “I never considered myself a distance runner, but, I thought, when I move to Chicago maybe I’ll just train for a 5K, that would be great!” She runs regularly with a group of 11 women who are now close friends. “We have just stuck together through all sorts of things, marriages divorces, babies being born, kids going off to college, people moving, new jobs, graduating,” she said.
She has been in Chicago for around a decade and now calls it home. Eventually she sees herself compiling her research and forming interventions for at-risk youth and creating coping curriculums that would assist students in becoming successful in academics. A part of student success would be providing them with positive future orientation. “When you have to plan out how you’re going to walk to school so you can avoid being beaten up or shot, you’re not thinking ahead 10 years in the future” she said. According to Gaylord-Harden, getting students to think about their futures at all would be good; getting them to think about it positively would be even better.
Dr. Gaylord-Harden’s life seems to be dictated by one force: passion. “I think my passion for this work drives me to do it. And I think it’s important to be able to feel passionate about what you’re doing. It’s like running; I’m very passionate about running, so I do it. Just like my family, I enjoy spending time with them and they’re so important to me. Just feeling a connection and feeling a passion about what you do in life is just so very important.”
- written by Mallory Morales on November 12th, 2012
- posted in Featured