Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology
Laura Harbert, known to the Fuller community for the last year as the dean of Chapel and Spiritual Formation, is now assistant professor of clinical psychology as well.
What are you especially passionate about in your work as a psychology professor, and what led you to this passion?
I am especially passionate about the ways that the process of spiritual formation is such a rich intersection of psychological and theological dynamics. For a long time I have wondered about how to understand what is God’s role and what is our role in the dance of being transformed into the image of Christ. I am interested in the ways that we consciously want to change and grow in love, wisdom, humility, and faith, but unconsciously we resist and sabotage our spiritual growth. I think what has led me to this passion is my own struggle to become more deeply rooted and grounded in God’s love and the struggle I have witnessed both as a pastor and a clinical psychologist. Why do we do the things we don’t want to do?
As a School of Psychology alumna who has been serving at Fuller as dean of Chapel and Spiritual Formation for a year now, do you see notable changes in Fuller and the School of Psychology? What has surprised or stood out to you this last year?
One notable change in the School of Psychology is how much more research is being done than when I was a student here in the ’80s. You rarely heard about grants being awarded to faculty (maybe with the exception of students working with Warren Brown). Also, in the School of Psychology I have been so impressed with the way the Marriage and Family program has integrated spiritual formation into the core of its training program with its four clinical virtues of humility, compassion, hope, and rest. There is much that our larger Fuller community has to glean from this curricular expression of shaping professional identity as peacemakers.
In terms of what has surprised or stood out to me this past year—I think I have been surprised at the dramatically different narratives of what life at Fuller is like for different people. From my first week here I have heard so many stories of great pain and great joy. There are so many people I have met here who are some of the most interesting, faith-filled, creative, intelligent, thoughtful human beings I have had the privilege to know. As a conversation begins to go a little deeper, though, almost all of them have experiences of suffering related to being a part of this complicated amazing community.
At this point in your journey, how does the addition of the faculty role fit into your call to God’s mission in the world?
My call to God’s mission at this time in my life is centered around spiritual formation of faculty, staff, and students at Fuller. Henri Nouwen talks about the work of spiritual formation as descending with the mind into the heart. In an academic institution like Fuller, I believe that my work as a faculty member in the School of Psychology will help me integrate mind and heart in the work of spiritual formation as I continue my own study and teach courses that will explore this topic from many different perspectives.