Megan Harris: A Force for Social Justice

Megan Harris: A Force for Social Justice

Temple University Psychology major (offered through the College of Liberal Arts) Megan Harris thinks nothing of placing the needs of others before her own. She is basing her future career on the goal of helping individuals out of some of the darkest moments of their lives.

“I’ve always understood that I’m a natural career giver. I believe I have an innate ability to listen to others and I’m naturally empathetic,” said Harris, 26, a member of the Class of 2020. “When I learned about the field of psychology, I felt it was a profession where I could use those traits — I thought my strengths and my personality aligned with the major.”

Of course, there was still some careful research after high school before she honed in on the right career path for her, she said.

“After high school, I wasn’t 100 percent positive what I wanted to do with my career in the future — I think there are likely more students that are in the same boat when deciding what they ultimately want to do than aren’t,” she said. “I started at Bucks County Community College and explored several different majors but after taking a few psychology courses and learning about careers in psychology it seemed to be the best career path for the personal goals that I wanted to achieve.”

Completing her associate’s degree in Psychology at Bucks County Community College, Harris was able to transfer her credits to Temple thanks to the articulation agreement in place between the two schools.

“Transferring credits was never an issue. I was also a commuter, so the Ambler Campus was a terrific option for someone like me traveling from Bucks County,” she said. “Classes were available at night and Temple also offers a number of online courses so I could schedule my classes to suit my needs — Temple makes online learning accessible and  very flexible. With the bus service between Temple Ambler and Main Campus, it was like having the resources of two campuses available to me instead of just one.”

Having a natural affinity for research and writing — crucial skills for any psychology student — Harris has truly shined academically at Temple. She currently has a stellar 3.97 average.

“As I complete my degree, I do like the fact there are many fields in psychology to work in. I know I’ll be able to find work in my field or be able to continue to graduate school — there are a lot of possibilities,” she said. “Temple prepares you for success. I’m ready to enter the field and get to work.”

Harris also feels she had a guardian angel — or maybe a guardian owl — looking out for her at Temple Ambler.

“If I can give any advice to future Temple Owls it is to build a close relationship with your advisor. My advisor (Kimberly Cooney, Manager of Student Success and Retention and Ambler Campus alumnus in her own right) helped me with registration and making sure I was on track to graduate on time,” she said. “She suggested different courses when learning my interests and career goals and wrote a letter of recommendation when I applied to graduate schools. That support prepared me to be successful as a student at Temple in addition to helping me prepare for success after graduation.”

While completing her degree, Harris also had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in her chosen field at Mitzvah Circle Foundation in Norristown.  

“Mitzvah Circle Foundation is a nonprofit that helps individuals and families in crisis such as homelessness, illness and poverty. I was their human services intern working directly with recipients to assess their needs and provide them with care packages,” she said. “The internship was a way for me to gain experiential learning. I was able to build my skills in needs assessment, which is very helpful in psychology especially if I want to continue graduate school as a counselor. I additionally worked with many other interns who were studying psychology and social work — it was a great way to build up a professional network.”

Reaching the end of this part of her educational journey, Harris is exploring her options after graduation, she said.   

“I was accepted to the Delaware Valley University master’s program in counseling psychology. It is a big milestone for me; it is a very competitive program with only one in 18 applicants accepted,” she said. “I feel like my experience at Temple and the skills I built through my internship put me a step ahead of other applicants. It is one opportunity I’m considering — I’ve been told that if I do not start in the fall, the university could extend my acceptance for a year.”

Harris is also actively job searching “and I’m seeing a lot of opportunities for someone with a degree in psychology.”

“The area of psychology that I’m most interested in studying is counseling psychology with a specialization in social justice; it is one of the fields of psychology that is growing today. It focuses on ethnicity and multicultural counseling,” she said. “There is a lot of diversity in humans and human experiences and a lot of counseling today may not consider all of the differences across cultural groups in America. Social justice community counseling looks at all of the differences within people and considers the implications that would be beneficial from a psychological counseling standpoint for all ethnicities and cultures.”

At a time when anxiety and uncertainty are gripping individuals globally as they do their best to keep themselves and others safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris said the current state of things has re-doubled her dedication to the psychology field.

“It has been eye-opening in many ways. I think it would be more beneficial for jobs within the psychology field to have some type of virtual access so we can help people when they have to stay home during extraordinary situations like we are in now,” she said. “Some psychology offices and counselors may not be available at this time and there are, of course, people who would benefit from online access to mental health resources at any time. It would be good to see the field of psychology develop a set of virtual experiences for people who don’t have access to a counseling office or other in-person meetings."