DeAnna Harris-McKoy

Associate Professor in School of Family and Consumer Sciences, Specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy (SMFT) director

DeAnna Harris-McKoy

What year did you start working at NIU?

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
My hometown is Baltimore, Maryland, and I currently live in Pingree Grove, Illinois.

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I attended University of Maryland College Park and received two bachelor of science degrees in psychology and family studies. I have a Master of Family Therapy from Drexel University and an MBA from University of Maryland Global Campus. I received my doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy from Florida State University. 

What do you like about working at NIU?
I joined the Huskie family during the 2020-2021 academic year, so I am relatively new to NIU. In addition to starting a new position during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2020 and started chemotherapy toward the end of the 2020. I am very appreciative of the staff, faculty and students in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences. They have been very welcoming and supportive as I transitioned to a new faculty and administrative position. The students have demonstrated a passion for learning, critical thinking and helping their clients. Their zeal for the profession encourages me to be a better professor. 

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
College can be an absolutely wonderful experience. Please make the most of it. Explore activities, courses and experiences outside of your comfort zone. Find your passion and purpose. Perfection doesn’t exist. Just do your best, knowing that what your best looks like may change daily. 

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I am currently analyzing data I previously collected regarding Black women and depression. Two colleagues and I wrote a chapter titled Navigating Client Generated Prejudice for an upcoming ethics textbook, along with a summary of the chapter for the Family Therapy Magazine. We have received a lot of positive feedback concerning the need and timeliness of the article. 

What do you hope students take away from your class?
I hope students take away a feeling of acceptance from any of the courses I teach. Therapists and therapists-in-training can really help clients achieve their goals when they can see clients for the totality of their human experience. That means students also have to accept their own humanity, their flaws, their imperfections, their baggage, their skills, their knowledge and their talents. 

What is your favorite campus event?
As a new faculty member who joined NIU during a pandemic, I have not had the chance to experience many of the typical events that happen on campus. Thus far, my favorite event was the celebration of the Black Lives Matter mural. I am in awe of the team at the Center for Black Studies as they rallied to fight and counter the racist act that occurred on our campus.

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
My favorite memory thus far is watching our Specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy (SMFT) students mature in their journey to becoming marriage and family therapists. I have watched some of my students make tremendous personal and professional growth. It is so exciting to watch them also realize and acknowledge their growth. 

Who has influenced your professional path?
My family has directly influenced my professional path. I would not be where I am today without my village. I am because we are. Each person in my family has contributed either emotional or instrumental support to my journey. I have also had/have multiple mentors throughout my academic and professional career, too many to name individually. Each of them provided and still provides me with resources and the confidence I need to continue to live my purpose and passion. 

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I wanted to be everything when I was younger. At some point I wanted to be a lawyer, a chemist and a chemical psychologist (I didn’t know if that existed or not). Each of those careers ultimately were a means to an end. I have always wanted to open a nonprofit organization that focuses on youth development. In a way, I am doing what I always wanted to do. Some of my research, clinical work and community service focuses on adolescents. 

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am currently the executive program consultant for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Minority Fellowship Program. The fellowship program trains marriage and family therapy master's and doctoral level students to provide culturally informed therapy to marginalized populations, especially those dealing with substance use issues. 

What community organizations are you involved in?
Service to the community is one of my core values. Every time I move to a new city, I actively search for ways to get involved. Unfortunately, the pandemic has decreased some of my community involvement. Currently, I am a member of the Hoffman Estates (Illinois) chapter of The Links, Incorporated

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I am a koala. I absolutely love to sleep! As an introvert, I recharge by reading, having quiet time and getting lost in my thoughts. 

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