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NIU Today | DeAnna Harris-McKoy reflects on the power of support

To commemorate Women’s History Month, NIU Today is publishing a series of articles highlighting faculty, staff, students, alumni and programs that make an impact at NIU and beyond.

DeAnna Harris-McKoy is a teacher, researcher, supervisor and therapist, all rolled into one.

The associate professor in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences and director of NIU’s Specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy (SMFT) program joined the Huskie family during the 2020-2021 academic year. In addition to starting a new position during the pandemic – and relocating from across the country – Harris-Mcoy faced another challenge after arriving in DeKalb.

DeAnna Harris-McKoy, associate professor in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer the month after I began at NIU in August 2020,” Harris-McKoy said. “I am very appreciative of the staff, faculty and student who have been so supportive as I transitioned to a new faculty and administrative position.”

Although new on campus and new to her role, Harris-McKoy is known as a positive force, advocate and source of inspiration. She attributes her strength to her family and their unwavering support.

“Each person in my family has contributed either emotional or instrumental support to my journey,” Harris-McKoy said. “I would not be where I am today without my village; I am because we are.”

Along with her family’s support, Harris-McKoy said she has a long list of female role models.

“I have too many female role models to name them individually,” she said. “Outside of the women that I know personally, one of my female role models is Mary McLeod Bethune. She continuously used her resources for the betterment of others.”

Harris-McKoy said McLeod Bethune, American educator and civil rights activist, is “the epitome of lifting as we climb.” The NIU associate professor offers her own advice to young women.

“Do it, but don’t do it alone; make sure you build your personal and professional village as you navigate life’s journey,” Harris-McKoy said. “Remember that you are special. Although there are approximately seven billion people in this world, there is only one you. Acknowledge, accept, and appreciate who we are.”

Her favorite NIU memory so far – along with the Black Lives Matter mural celebration – revolves around her students.

“It’s watching our SMFT students mature in their journey to becoming marriage and family therapists,” Harris-McKoy said. “I have watched some of my students make tremendous personal and professional growth. It’s so exciting to watch them realize this.”

As she completes her second year as a Huskie, she’s looking forward to what lies ahead.

“Since I started at NIU during the pandemic, I haven’t been able to experience all of what NIU has to offer,” she said. “Along with our students, I would say I most enjoy the faculty and staff I have met thus far at NIU. Everyone seems passionate about what they do. Everyone has been welcoming, friendly, and respectful. It’s amazing.”

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