‘New normal’ takes on added meaning for Fort Hays State’s psychology chair


Dr. Dharma Jairam was so intrigued with what he learned about Fort Hays State University that he decided to change jobs and move his family to a new city in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Jairam admits it was different conducting his interview for Chair of the Department of Psychology at FHSU via Zoom. But he said he felt comfortable with the search committee and his research about the university. So he took a leap of faith and accepted the position when it was offered.

He was even more impressed with his new university once he set foot on campus, which boasts of several new buildings as well as ongoing new construction and renovations.

“That kind of activity is a really good sign,” Jairam said. “Some campuses are struggling to keep their lights on, and what’s going on at Fort Hays State is showing forward momentum, a vision for the future.”

Jairam comes to FHSU after five years at Morningside College, a small private university in northwestern Iowa, where he taught in the graduate school. He served as head of the Educational Research Department. His redesign of that department’s courses led to significant improvements in student learning outcomes, for which he won two awards. He also serves as a peer reviewer for accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission and reviews colleges and universities in a19-state region in the Midwest for accreditation.

But he was seeking a new challenge and found what he was looking for in the Fort Hays State position.

Jairam is looking forward to the 2020-21 school year, even during these challenging times of COVID-19. The pandemic has forced institutions to implement numerous changes how they go about their business of educating students, including the transition to total remote learning last spring.

Jairam, however, thinks FHSU’s established tradition of online learning will prove invaluable during this time, and he was not surprised how Fort Hays State successfully – and quickly –pivoted to a different educational process in March.

“FHSU was a step ahead of the curve from a lot of other campuses when the pandemic hit,” he said. “I don’t know of any other school that has been as progressive as Fort Hays State in online education. FHSU isn’t afraid of taking risks and moving forward and doesn’t stand still.”

Jairam is a native of New York and decided to check out a different part of the country after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology from colleges in his native state. After completing a doctoral fellowship in Colorado, he earned a doctorate in psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Jairam grew to like the Midwest and is looking forward to living in Hays.

Jairam is excited for the start of the new school year and overseeing a department with 32 faculty, including 13 full-time professors, 25 graduate teaching assistants and six staff members.

“I am looking forward to establishing relationships with the faculty and staff who make this a great department,” he said, “and seeking ways to work progressively toward accomplishing our strategic plan. The push at the start of the pandemic was keeping our heads above water. Now, we need to keep moving forward and growing.”

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