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Janis Sanchez-Hucles


Training Location(s):

PhD (Clinical Psychology), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, (1980)

MS Ed., Purdue University, (1975)

BA, Swarthmore College, (1973)

Primary Affiliation(s):

Old Dominion University, (1980-present)

Media Links:
Professional Website

Janis Sanchez-Hucles at Old Dominion University


Psychology's Feminist Voices Oral History Transcript


Oral History Excerpt on YouTube: Division 35




Career Focus: Women and leadership; ethnic minorities and diversity; culturally competent mental health services.


Coming of age as a Latina in the civil rights era, feminism was not an obvious political affiliation for Janis Sanchez-Hucles. As she notes, there was a "strong prohibition against thinking about gender" - "The notion was that race came first, it was our primary oppression, and that you were a traitor to the cause if you were concerned about women's issues." Sanchez-Hucles, the oldest of six children, grew up in New York.  The paternal side of her family was Cuban-Caribbean-American and her maternal side was Southern American. While the politics of race made a lot of sense to Sanchez, when she discovered feminist writings on gender during her time at university, she felt that she found the "missing piece".  While at times she has felt fragmented by needing to focus more on race or gender in certain communities, as a feminist psychologist she feels that she has found a place where she can be integrated.


As a teenager, Sanchez-Hucles was confident she would pursue medicine and become a doctor.  Things changed in her senior year when a clinical psychologist spoke at career day.  As someone who was always asking 'why', clinical psychology seemed like a dream job. As a psychologist, she could not only work in the community with issues related to health, but she could continue to pose questions and engage in theoretical work.  At the beginning of her undergraduate training at Swarthmore College, Sanchez-Hucles switched majors.


As a young female student of color, Sanchez felt intimidated by professors.  She felt this intimidation impacted her academic development, as she was slow to become involved in scholarly pursuits such as research, writing or presentations.  However, she still felt supported by the faculty who anticipated her success, which was affirming.  In the 1970s Sanchez began graduate training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  During this time she began to examine racialized communities and their relationships to psychology and mental health.  She felt that psychology was not relevant to many ethnically diverse communities, and as a result these communities did not utilize or trust mainstream health services.  Sanchez-Hucles became committed to  making psychology relevant and accessible to ethnic minority populations.  Reflecting on her experiences, Sanchez-Hucles does notice a shift in these populations' relationship to psychology.  In her private practice more of her clients are now people of color, and topics that were once taboo are being written about in community papers.  There is an increasing acknowledgment of the physical and psychological impact that stress has in people's lives.


Sanchez-Hucles was the second person of color to graduate with a psychology doctorate from the University of North Carolina, with the first doctorate awarded only a few months before her.  This was in the early 1980s, which reminds Sanchez of how slow progress can be.  Following her dissertation she planned to work in community mental health centers.  Unfortunately, at the time funding for these community centers had been severely cut.  She thought about looking for part-time teaching work until she could find a community-based position as a practitioner. 


Thus, although she had never considered a career in academia, Sanchez-Hucles actually found herself in a tenure-track assistant professor position at Old Dominion University.  While seeking to recruit participants for her doctoral study, she had asked the department if they knew of any part-time teaching possibilities.  Given her expertise and, as she notes, all of the affirmative action slots she could fill (as both a Latina and a woman), the department offered her a full-time position.  Working as an academic challenged her sense of self as she had always imagined herself in a more applied setting.  However, she soon discovered that she loved teaching and became involved in research that sought to identify the needs of and create resources for diverse consumers of the health system. 


As a faculty member at Old Dominion University, Sanchez-Hucles became more involved with organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA), specifically Division 35 (Society for the Psychology of Women).  It is through Division 35 that Sanchez-Hucles is able to work with a multiplicity of issues related to identity.  Her first involvement with the Division was in 1990 when she was invited to chair a task force that examined ethnic minority women and their needs. 


Despite her extensive involvement in professional psychology and her many leadership positions, her mother jokes that she cannot believe that Sanchez-Hucles gives speeches in front of large groups of people.  Sanchez-Hucles is the first to admit that she is introverted, and that she cannot believe it either.  However, she does recognize that she is skilled at wearing different hats.  Whether her role is public speaker, soccer mom, or psychologist, Sanchez-Hucles gives her best effort.  While there have been times when it was a struggle to juggle all of these hats, Sanchez-Hucles believes that family always comes first.  She also believes in "prayer, meditation, exercise, trying to do things in moderation." 


In a final statement, Sanchez emphasizes the importance of reaching one's personal goals:


"And I just think that it's very easy for those of us who may be female, disabled, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, poor, rural, whatever the dimension is, I think you may have been told by someone along the way that you weren't going to be able to achieve your goal.  But I really think that if you are willing to stay focused and if you look and stay alert to people who will help and support you, then I do believe they will appear."


While Sanchez did not end up at a community mental health center, she did achieve her goal.  She continues to work to improve the mental health and services of people of color, as a Latina, a woman, a feminist and a psychologist.


by Jenna MacKay (2010)
To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works:


Sanchez-Hucles, J. V. & Davis, D. D. (2010). Women and women of color in leadership: Complexity, identity, and intersectionality. American Psychologist, 65, 171-181.


Sanchez-Hucles, J. (2008). Trauma and recovery in its cultural context. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 223-224.


Sanchez-Hucles, J. & Gamble, K. K. (2006). Trauma in the lives of girls and women. In C. Goodheart & J. Worell (Eds.), Handbook of girl's and women's psychological health (pp. 103-112). New York: Oxford University Press.


Chin, J. L., Lott, B., Rice, J. & Sanchez-Hucles, J. (Eds.).(2007). Women and leadership: Transforming visions and diverse voices. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.


Sanchez-Hucles, J. & Jones, N. (2005). Breaking the silence around race in training, practice, and research. The Counseling Psychologist, 33, 547-558.


Sanchez-Hucles, J. V. (2000). The first session with African-Americans: A step-by-step guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.


Interview with Janis Sanchez-Hucles: Getting Involved with Division 35

Interview conducted on February 4, 2006 by Alexandra Rutherford in San Antonio, Texas U.S.A.