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Meet Faculty Member Tameeka Hunter, PhD

Tameeka Hunter

Dr. Tameeka Hunter considers her new faculty position at Palo Alto University (PAU) to be the next phase of her career. Armed with 17 years of experience in higher education disability services, culminating in a role as Director of Accessibility Services, a PhD in Counselor Education from Georgia State University, and superb grant writing skills, Dr. Hunter is well-positioned to expand the body of knowledge that exists on the resilience of marginalized and multiple marginalized populations living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.  

“Marginalized communities are underrepresented in the literature,” said Dr. Hunter, who identifies as a Black, queer, cisgender woman with a lifelong physical disability. I want to apply my research and scholarship so mental health professionals can better support these communities more holistically.”

Early in her career, as a coordinator for students with disabilities at Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. Hunter discovered the disparities that exist between those students of financial means and those without. In order for students to receive disability services, they had to have a neuropsychological evaluation which cost $500-$600. While the Georgia Board of Regents now supplements the cost, at the time students had to come up with the money. “I started to notice that first-generation students, students of color and those from different backgrounds that were ‘less privileged’ were struggling to pay the fee. As a result, they shied away from being evaluated and did not receive the necessary accommodations to succeed in school.”

To solve the problem, Dr Hunter devised a program that supplemented the cost of students who couldn’t afford to pay for the diagnostic testing. “This is what started me thinking about how, in our society, ableism, racism, sexism, and homophobia are held together by the same thing: power and privilege,” she said.

Eventually, Dr. Hunter realized she wanted to support students in a more holistic way, beyond just providing them with accommodations. This led her to earn a doctorate in Counselor Education and Practice at Georgia State University in 2020. While pursuing her doctorate, she received a National Board of Certified Counselors Fellowship. Participating in this program, she met several individuals who are now her colleagues at PAU including Shreya Vaishnav, PhD, and Donya Wallace, PhD.

Dr. Hunter’s research focuses on the resilience of marginalized and multiple-marginalized populations, including people living with disabilities and chronic illnesses, people of color, sexual and gender expansive people and women. “The reason I focus on resilience, as opposed to coping, is that while they may seem similar, they are distinctly different.” She explains that coping is when you have a stressor, and you adapt to the impact of that stressor. It’s the desire to prevent the harm from happening in the first place. While she acknowledges there are some legitimate critiques around the construct of resilience, she believes resilience is thought to have a stress-buffering potential.  

Now at PAU, Dr. Hunter is excited to serve as one of the newly recruited faculty for the recently launched PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision program. One of her first service appointments was to join the PhD Development Committee. She finds it rewarding to facilitate student growth, development, scholarship, practice, and supervision.

Another area Dr. Hunter is enthusiastic about is applying the grant-writing skills she developed at her previous position at the University of Arkansas (UA). She feels extremely fortunate to have been mentored by a fellow UA faculty member with similar interests around disabilities, and who was a "rainmaker" when it came to writing successful grants. In only a two-year period, Dr. Hunter secured $4 million in grant funding, including a $2 million federal grant from the Health Resource Services Administration.

“I’m looking forward to collaborating with my PAU colleagues to identify and secure the support we need to advance research on ableism and marginalized communities,” said Dr. Hunter.

When Dr. Hunter is not teaching, researching, or writing grants she enjoys reading, cooking, and trying new restaurants. “When I was a kid, I watched cooking shows instead of cartoons,” said Dr. Hunter. “I always thought I wanted to be a chef and run my own restaurant, but I eventually became more practical. So now I enjoy cooking at home and dining out at restaurants.”