Since her time as a middle-school counselor, Natoya Haskins has been working to support students of color and other underserved populations in their educational pursuits.
Haskins will continue those efforts at William & Mary when she becomes the new co-director of the W&M Undergraduate Research Experience program this July.
WMSURE provides students interested in research and graduate studies with workshops, faculty mentorship and other opportunities. Although it was started in 2010 to support William & Mary Scholars — students from underrepresented groups who receive full scholarships based on academic merit — the program is open to all undergraduates at the university.
Haskins, an assistant professor of counselor education at W&M, will lead the program with Cheryl Dickter, an associate professor of psychology who founded WMSURE along with former W&M professor Anne Charity Hudley.
“I am very excited to welcome Natoya to the WMSURE team,” said Dickter. “Natoya’s research and teaching expertise on providing supportive experiences that embrace cultural diversity fit in well with the goal of WMSURE — to support underrepresented scholars.
“We are extremely fortunate to have such an accomplished researcher and dedicated teacher to provide leadership to the scholars in our program. I am confident that our scholars will benefit from Natoya’s leadership as the new faculty co-director of WMSURE.”
A native of Williamsburg, Haskins began her career as a school counselor for one of the lowest-achieving middle schools in Virginia, where she worked primarily with African-American students. In that role, she was struck by the gaps in the learning process for students of color and the need for more support of those students.
“As a school counselor, I often felt like I was the one person trying to advocate; and they needed more people like me,” she said.
However, the counselors and teachers in training who would come into Haskins’ school on internships were rarely interested in applying for jobs there because they felt overwhelmed and unprepared. That was one of the factors that motivated Haskins to pursue a doctorate and a career in higher education.
“I felt more school counselors need to be confident and competent in working with these populations of students that are typically underserved and underresourced,” she said.
Haskins received her doctorate from William & Mary in 2011 and went on to work as a professor at the University of Georgia. Her doctoral dissertation work focused on taking a critical look at the preparation of students of color in counselor education and gaps in their curricular experiences, and her current research continues to be centered on deficits in programming for students of color and culturally responsive practices and pedagogical strategies and programming that improves the academic success of underrepresented graduate students.
“That really came from my interactions with African-American students in higher education and seeing that they were feeling like their needs weren’t being met,” she said.
“I left the K-12 setting where I saw some of the same things – students were feeling that emotionally and educationally they weren’t getting what they needed – and then to come to graduate programs and still hear the same narrative was really striking but resonated with me in terms of my own kind of identity as a social justice advocate and someone who wants to not only address the issues but illuminate them.”
While at UGA, Haskins started affinity groups to support African-American students in counselor education and counseling psychology graduate programs. The purpose of the groups was not only to address some of the social and emotional aspects of what the students were experiencing themselves but to support the students in developing their research skills.
When Haskins started at W&M last fall, she wanted to continue supporting underrepresented student as well as students doing research related to diversity and social justice issues. As such she developed the new Social Justice and Diversity Graduate Research Fellows program, which provides graduate students at the university opportunities for networking, interdisciplinary collaboration and research experiences on diversity and social justice issues.
It was also in the fall that Haskins was first introduced to WMSURE when she was invited to present at one of its weekly workshops.
“When I was approached to potentially work with WMSURE, I was like, this could be perfect. This is exactly the work that I’ve done and the type of students I’ve had interactions with for the last 12 years of my career,” Haskins said.
Although she doesn’t officially begin as co-director until July, Haskins has already been involved in the work of WMSURE, presenting with Dickter during the Day for Admitted Students and connecting with students with whom she will work this summer on research.
Being able to help students develop their research identities is just one of the things that Haskins looks forward to as one of the leaders of WMSURE. She is also excited about supporting students from marginalized populations — who may not get the same kind of opportunities that others do — see their research published and get into graduate programs.
“Being able to be a part of that and extend the work I’ve been doing in other areas is almost a full-circle experience in some ways,” she said. “It’s allowing me to continue the journey.”