When assistant professor of psychology, Dr. Farrah Hughes, first entered college, she had all intentions of becoming a medical doctor. But the realization that her life would be consumed with sickness and the fact that she received a liberal arts education ultimately changed her mind.
“I had gone to college thinking that I was going to be a doctor and wanted to help people that way, and then I realized that I just did not want to mess with their bodies; I did not want to deal with disease and sickness,” Hughes said. “I went to a liberal arts school like this one where we had to take a lot of different classes. So I thought about all the classes I had taken and what I had enjoyed, and realized that I could be a psychologist and still help people and would not have to deal so much with the icky-ness of medicine.”
Hughes’ journey to becoming a psychologist was filled with prestige. She graduated undergraduate from Wake Forest University in her home state of North Carolina. She then went on to receive her master’s degree and doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the University of Tennessee. After, she attended Alpert (formerly Brown) Medical School in Rhode Island for her one year residency as a clinician.
After completing her yearlong residency which consisted of working with children and with veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, Hughes had the opportunity to do a post-doctoral fellowship, but a longing for home changed her decision. It was also part of the reason she secured a position at Francis Marion, a place that she had become familiar with while traveling.
“When I first interviewed for this job, I guess it was six years ago, I had known about the school just because I had passed it before driving by,” Hughes said. “But I did not realize what a special place it was until I met the people here.”
What Hughes loves most about her colleagues is the fact that they do not thrive in chaos and are dedicated, hardworking leaders.
“I love my colleagues and our administration is top notch,” Hughes said. “I have been at really big schools, at really prominent schools and there are problems-political problems or important people bring their personal issues into their jobs and it creates all sorts of havoc. And we are blessed here that we do not have a lot of that and we have good leadership.”
Not only does she love the faculty, but Hughes loves her students as well. She especially loves it when students provide personal and novel insight into concepts during class.
“In the classroom, I love it when students have really insightful observations or questions and they think about something that I have not thought of before,” Hughes said.
When she is not teaching, Hughes still enjoys guiding her students, especially when it comes to helping them figure out what path to take in life.
“Outside of the classroom, my favorite thing about teaching is just mentoring students in general when they come to me and say ‘I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I’m thinking about graduate school, but I have no clue. Can you talk to me about that?”‘
Hughes is also, from personal experience, able to offer students advice about what minor to pursue-a decision that can be elusive for most, if not all, college students.
“In advising, a question I get asked a lot is ‘What do I want to minor in?’ because people figure out what they want to major in but try to pick a minor that is going to look good,”‘ Hughes said. “I minored in Latin, which is such a geeky thing to do, but I loved studying Roman history and Roman poetry, and I even got to study abroad for a semester in Italy because of this minor. So I tell students to find something they enjoy. We might pick our major for practical reasons, but pick your minor to be something that is going to interest you, something that you are passionate about.”
Hughes found her true passion in relationship and couples therapy, although it was not her original intention.
“I love relationships the most,” Hughes said. “I went into psychology to work with kids and then I realized you cannot help children unless you can help their parents. Because you can work with a child for 50 minutes a week and send them home to the same environment.”
As a result of her passion, Hughes conducted research on domestic violence, forgiveness in relationships, and parenting alliances. Her current research focuses on FMU students who are parents.
“Lately I have been interested in the undergraduate students that I have who are parents,” Hughes said. “I am always impressed and sort of admire the hard work of the students who are parents that I encounter.”
Hughes tries to establish personal relationships with these students to ensure they accomplish their goals.
“I have been trying to get to know them a little bit better,” Hughes said. “And find out what makes them tick and if there are any ways the faculty or the staff can help ensure their success.”
She also believes that everyone can learn from these students.
“Most of the one’s I have met just amaze me,” Hughes said. “The obstacles they have overcome are tremendous and we can learn so much from them.”
Outside of academia, Hughes loves spending time with family and friends.
“I love my family,” Hughes said. “I finish my workday and I go home, and there is no happier place than being with my family. I have a husband and a daughter (she’s three), and I have two dogs and we try to have fun and we try do things together at home. We go to church and we have a lot of friends that we do things with.”
So from aspiring medical doctor to successful psychologist, professor, wife and mother, Hughes has had quite an exciting journey. However, there are times when she misses the mountains of North Carolina. But no worries; Hughes is here to stay.
“I miss my mountains,” Hughes said. “But I’m happy here, and I’m not going anywhere.”