Michael Wynn | Social Community Manager
Go to college. Make good grades. Get involved. Pursue a fulfilling career. Live the life you have always dreamed of living.
For many college students, their journeys might have been paved with gold stars and trophies, always chasing the next great achievement. Then, at some point in college or perhaps after graduation, they realize that there is no syllabus for how to live a fulfilling life.
For Denzel Hunter, ’15, it was in August of 2011, sitting in a Post University lecture hall during the opening session of the former Academic Commitment to Excellence summer program, where he grasped the lesson that, to define his own path, he needed to be intentional.
One of about 75 program participants, he remembers the program’s coordinator getting up in front of the room and telling each of them to look to their left and right.
“’They will not be here when you graduate,’” Hunter recalls her saying. “And that was so profound to me because anyone can go to school and learn, but not everyone will succeed and graduate. It takes hard work and dedication, as well as having the support of faculty and staff, to earn a degree.”
For Hunter, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and went on to complete a master’s degree with a focus in forensic psychology from Capella University, personal support and believing in others has been the cornerstone of his career. In September, he was named the City of Bridgeport’s director of clinical services. In this role, Hunter oversees the city’s social services department and leads a group of social workers in the critical work promoting the well-being of the people of Bridgeport.
“We are a bridge for the residents of Bridgeport to be successful,” he said. “We provide housing support, mental health and substance abuse resources, and vocational services, and we work in conjunction with the police department. We are working to find ways to help individuals before they experience a crisis.”
Hunter is not the first member of his family to give back to the city, though. His grandfather, who co-founded Housatonic Community College and served as professor and psychology department chair there, participated in several community wellness organizations, including serving as a member of Greater Bridgeport Regional Mental Health Advisory Board. He credits him and other family members for inspiring his career path.
“My family, especially my grandfather, played a huge role in the work I am doing today, Hunter said. “My mom did too. As a kid she allowed me to watch Investigation Discovery channel and I got into the psychology aspects of the shows. My uncle even got to do some work with B.F. Skinner while he was at Harvard. So, my family really planted the seed and set the foundation for my career today.”
Helping others was important to Hunter when he was a student at Post, too. During his time on campus, he was involved with Mentoring Men of Color, a group that focused on providing students from diverse backgrounds the skills and tools necessary to be successful in college. This experience showed him that, despite any disparities that exist among different groups, and the individual trials and tribulations that his peers were going through, discipline and hard work, along with support, would ultimately lead to success.
Mentoring and supporting his peers drove Hunter to become even more interested in the behavioral aspects of psychology. He spent much of his time outside of class researching concepts and theories about why people say and do the things they do.
“I really just gravitated toward research related to ABA therapy, psychopathology, and even criminology,” he said. “I was fascinated by the psychological and sociological aspects of people’s decision-making skills.”
Helping others is what led him to work as a behavioral technician early in his career. Working mainly with kids on the autism spectrum and with Asperger’s syndrome, Hunter supported the kids and their families by providing appropriate behavioral plans and interventions for in the home and at school. Ultimately, he wanted to be sure that the needs of the individuals were being met.
His work as a behavioral technician was not without its challenges. His experiences at Post, both in and out of the classroom, did prepare him to recognize those challenges and overcome them.
“The biggest challenge is that it is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Hunter said. “You have to have patience, and tolerance, and listening is important. Listening to what the individual needs is so crucial to the work I was doing. This could be challenging, especially when they could not express themselves, so it was important for me to advocate for them in both the home and school settings.”
When thinking about the personal level of support he received at Post, career-readiness and being a successful professional are what stands out to Hunter. In his neuropsychology class, he remembers Renata Streck, former program chair for psychology, bringing in professionals from the department of children and family services (DCF), to speak. Afterwards, he had the opportunity to network with them, sharing his background and interests.
“Dr. Streck provided opportunities that went beyond typical classroom learning,” Hunter said. “Networking after that class got me an interview with DCF, and while I did not get that job, I got some valuable advice on where to get experience, which helped me to get a job with the agency a few years later.”