David W. Hart, Ph.D.
I often say that I’m a proud product of the public school system. As a child, I loved school! I was that kid who rode his bike to campus every day during the last weeks of August to find out what teacher I had for the new academic year. The first day of school was better than Christmas and truth be told I still have butterflies in my stomach when a new semester begins. I loved school so much I guess I never left. The education I received in my hometown of Upland, CA and at Cal State Fullerton as both an undergrad and graduate student, truly elevated my life to a level that I couldn’t have dreamed of growing up in a working class neighborhood with my mom and younger brother. I’m the first person in my family to attend college and certainly the first to graduate and go on to earn a Ph.D. I’ve been on the campus of Cal State Fullerton in some capacity – as a student (B.S. in Political Science and M.S. in Counseling), employee (I worked for Titan Shops in the bookstore the first semester of my freshmen year), graduate assistant (I worked in Academic Advising for a semester or two), and as a faculty member (I began teaching in the Counseling Department in 2003) – for nearly 20 years. Cal State Fullerton has been unbelievably good to me and I’m incredibly proud to be part of a community that promotes the values that I hold dear, including diversity, equity, and excellence.
My career has taken many paths but education seems to be the tie that binds together the many chapters of my work story. I served as the Program Director at The Center Orange County for several years and oversaw all of the agency’s HIV prevention programs for men, youth, and transgender clients. I also was the Director of Education for Alzheimer’s Family Services Center where I was responsible for the development and implementation of a $250,000 three-year dementia education program funded by the UniHealth Foundation and Hoag Hospital. All the while I continued to work on my hours for licensure and taught one or two classes at Cal State Fullerton. I eventually acquiesced to the drive I had to teach more and decided to attend the University of Missouri – St. Louis to complete the Ph.D. in Counseling. Four years later, with dissertation successfully defended and the doctorate in hand, I returned to Long Beach and now have the privilege of teaching graduate students in the Counseling and Psychology Departments at CSUF. I enjoy teaching clinical courses, including all levels of clinical practicum, group, career, and addictions counseling. I’ve also taught courses in research and research methods. In addition to my faculty appointment, I am also Director of Clinical Services at Always Best Care Senior Services, a small business that my parents and I operate. We specialize in caring for patients diagnosed with dementia and their families. I love my work and remain grateful that I’m lucky enough to live my passion.
I have found that Carl Rogers’ non-directive, student-centered approach to teaching strongly resonates with my own stylistic preferences. My courses can at times be observed by students as unstructured. For some, this perceived lack of structure can be a source of frustration and anxiety, but my choice to integrate Rogers’ teaching principles in my own pedagogy is methodical. In the classroom, I strive to embody counseling ethos, which includes a deep respect for a client’s autonomy and freedom to create both a healthy self and relationships. I find these same principles work just as well in the classroom. I want students to think independently and creatively and not simply regurgitate ideas from the text or lecture. I strive to create a classroom community where students can become deeply committed to their own learning. This requires students to be in touch with their own thoughts and feelings, as well as those of their colleagues. Learning, as Rogers posited, can be therapeutic if instructors create the space for it. Students, particularly in counseling courses, should have the opportunity to simultaneously develop their professional acumen while at the same time deepen their therapeutic understanding of themselves. In this vein, I empower students to make choices about assignments and classroom structure by providing options to choose from. I model active listening and am intensely curious about students’ thoughts and ideas. I also attempt to remain vulnerable by recognizing that I do not have a monopoly on knowledge or experience. This vulnerability communicates that I am sensitive to the feelings and ideas of others. By the end of my courses, I genuinely hope to see students increase their flexibility, tolerance for ambiguity, openness, and willingness to listen. Learning course content is critical to shaping competent and ethical practitioners but becoming a master of the therapeutic process is the single most important element that promotes positive outcomes in the lives of our clients. It is my intention to attend to both content and process.
My research interests are in the areas of spiritual integration and counseling, sexual and gender minority issues related to identity development, psychological mediation of stress related to minority status, and counseling the older adult client, particularly patients diagnosed with dementia and their care partners. I find that this model of teaching and research reflects my queer theory and feminist principles, which supposes the counseling profession move beyond the restraints of the traditional psychodynamic framework and acknowledge that each individual and community has value – and a voice.