Grand Forks, N.D.
Navarro is an assistant professor of counseling psychology at the University of North Dakota, where she teaches psychological and cognitive assessment and a first-year doctoral practicum class and co-directs the university's APA-accredited doctoral program. To fulfill her passion for social justice and diversity issues, she serves on the College of Education and Human Development's anti-racism team and is a member of a National Science Foundation-funded research team studying persistence among women and Latina/o engineering majors.
Navarro was born and raised in the small town of Mound, Minn. — the birthplace of Tonka toys — by her Czechoslovakian-Irish mother and Puerto Rican father. She spent her summers playing catcher in fast-pitch softball and her winters bundled up against the Minnesota cold. But the chill in North Dakota still bites. "This is the Plains, so in terms of the wind and the sheer cold, it's a lot harder to manage," she says. "We had snow in the first week of October."
Snow or no snow, Navarro often drives the five hours from Grand Forks back to Rockford, Minn., near Mound, where her partner and his two teenage children live.
A rural practitioner
Navarro has a private practice on the side "to keep my clinical skills polished," she says. She counsels adults and adolescents, some of whom drive in from Minnesota or near the Canadian border to see her. She specializes in interpersonal violence as well as relationship and vocational issues and mentors students interested in working in rural primary-care settings or doing research there. "I've had great mentors, so mentorship is really important to me," she says.
How psychology snagged her
As an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, Navarro couldn't decide between history and psychology as her major. One day, her psychology stats professor jokingly scripted "Dr. Rachel Navarro" as the main character of an exam question. Right then, Navarro envisioned herself getting her psychology doctorate. "Everything just clicked, it was one of those watershed moments in my life," she says. Psychology has felt like a perfect fit ever since, she says. "Both my personal beliefs on social justice and my work live in the same place," she says.