Wynd Harris, Ph.D., D.Min. '18 Reflects on Women's History Month

Wynd Harris

Dr. Wynd Harris, D.Min. recording D.Min. PowerPoint voiceover commentary.

Wynd Harris, Ph.D., D.Min. ’18 (she/her/hers) is the Director of Research for our Interfaith Doctor of Ministry Program. As part of this role, Dr. Harris is a thesis advisor to current D.Min. candidates as they work on their Demonstration Project, the final requirement for graduation. She assists students in conducting their research on a pastoral need in a field setting that conforms to the American Psychological Association’s guidelines.

Dr. Harris reflects on her time as a D.Min. student at HUC: “I absolutely loved my theological coursework because it challenged me to discover what my beliefs were. The study of pastoral psychology gave me a fresh understanding of how to work with the needs of others as a supportive guide and helper far beyond my prior work as a psychiatric nurse. During the D.Min. program and afterward, I worked as a Jewish Chaplain in a variety of congregational and assisted living settings.”
She adds: “It turns out that my D.Min. training has helped me be a better professor at serving the needs of our students as a professor and program administrator at the University of Connecticut (Dr. Harris serves as Associate Professor of Marketing in Residence and Honors Coordinator at the UConn-Stamford Business program). The listening skills one develops in the D.Min training are invaluable in working with others regardless of one’s primary occupation.”

In honor of Women’s History Month, Dr. Harris shares her personal journey. “I came to Connecticut over 30 years ago not fully knowing who I was. Many aspects of my self-identity did not fit with my assigned sex at birth. It was a real struggle growing up not knowing who I was both religiously and gender-wise. Rabbi Hesh Sommer of Temple Beth Tikvah, a fellow HUC D.Min. graduate, helped me find my Jewish identity and to live a Jewish life. Rabbi Hesh and the congregation were a great support to me as I later transitioned to living my life as a woman. The other group that helped me discover I was meant to live my life as a woman was the Gender Identity Clinic of New England, led at the time by Dr. George Higgins. Without the support of these two groups of people, I doubt I would have ever found my way out of the desert I was living in to the place of wholeness, sh’leimut, I now find myself.”

She continues: “I believe the contribution of women in society as a whole has been underrepresented since the beginning of time. Having our own month to recognize the many ways women have and do serve society’s development in our world is vitally important to the well-being of current social life in general and to the development of future women as leaders. As a trans woman, I accept my role as a woman being a part of those for whom the month provides the importance of recognition of women’s lives in our world.

“In addition to the folks at Temple Beth Tikvah and the Gender Identity Clinic, there are two other persons that stand out as providing the support I needed to become the person I am today. Dr. Paula Hyman, z’’l, gave me an academic home at Yale as a Post-Doc in Religious studies and History. Paula and I would meet for tea about once a week and discuss our work at Yale over my years there. She, more than anyone, helped me complete my transition to being the woman I am today, academically, and in fulfilling my leadership role as a woman in our complex social fabric.

“The other person who has stood beside me all these years and helped give me a compelling reason to live my life as the person I am is my son. His continued support and love are something I have cherished over the years. They gave me hope that even in dark times, I would find my way to being the person I was meant to be and live that life in the full light of the day.
“Finally, I have to thank the HUC-JIR D.Min. program experience for helping me refine many of the rough edges of my life in pursuit of sh’leimut.”