September 29, 2023

Department Spotlight: John Barr 

Photo of John Barr hiking

John Barr is a current graduate student in the USU Combined Clinical/Counseling PhD specialization. During his time at USU, John has worked with mentors who have greatly impacted his academic journey and helped him deepen his love of psychology. While in graduate school John found a passion for clinical work and teaching and was the 2023 recipient of the Graduate Student Teacher of the Year award.

Why did you choose USU? 
I chose USU because of the mentors and the mountains. Initially, I came in and worked with Dr. Tyler Renshaw. His amazing guidance and expertise changed my entire academic trajectory, inspiring me to fall even deeper in love with psychology. Ultimately, this motivated a move to the Combined program, which was a wonderful decision for many reasons but also because I now work with the lovely Dr. Maria Kleinstaeuber. Oh, and the outdoor options here have been stellar to say the least.

Tell us about your path to graduate school and why you chose the program you are in. 
My path has been a winding one. I always knew I wanted to go to graduate school – education and psychology were my primary interests, so I started out in School Psych. From there, I gravitated more towards psychotherapy and older adolescents, which had me reconsider my long-term passions. Now I am in the Combined program and find that I enjoy clinical work and teaching the most. Those are the two pursuits I hope to focus my career around.

You were the 2023 recipient of the Graduate Student Teacher of the year award. What does that award mean to you? 
Teaching has been one of the top experiences for me in graduate school. Finding ways to impart helpful psychological knowledge on young students in a manner that is engaging and accessible is very meaningful to me. I try hard to make my classes feel captivating through class-wide participation and discussions, focusing the topics on important psychological concepts for introductory classes, while also keeping the material relevant to students’ lives. It seems that at least some of the students have really enjoyed that focus and that makes me happy.

What are your plans for after graduation? 
I would like to continue teaching and engage in private practice psychotherapy. I have spent a lot of time considering which pursuits are the most valuable for me and those two experiences really fill up my cup.

What advice do you have for future Psychology students or those thinking about applying?
Graduate school is challenging. Pace yourselves. Set healthy boundaries. Take the extra time to find mentors who will allow you to grow at your own speed and make mistakes. I have been incredibly lucky with the advisors I have had, so my biggest piece of advice would be to find advisors who are lovely human beings because it will truly make all of the difference. Lucky for us, USU is full of them!