Neifa Hardy earns doctorate in psychology

Published 12:08 pm Thursday, January 25, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Neifa Hardy, the community liaison to Mayor Dan Gibson, recently earned her Doctor of Psychology in Behavioral Health Leadership degree from Walden University.

She passed her oral defense on Nov. 20 and graduated on Jan. 20 in Walden’s winter 2024 commencement at the Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Hardy said she is proud of the accomplishment and that it occurred in the face of many challenges.

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“Reaching this level in my educational career is an amazing achievement,” she said. “During the time I was in my program I faced many challenges, such as losing my first chair, my best friend, and my mother all within a short period of time. Therefore, writing and editing were certainly difficult.”

Hardy explained that during the tough times, it was important for her to have faith and to understand that her achievement was bigger than herself. This, along with the support of her husband and children, gave her the push she needed to continue, she said.

Gibson said he is extremely proud of Hardy.

“I honestly don’t know how she does it all,” he said. “She is so hardworking, managing a family, small children, and serving our community so well in so many ways! Neifa’s commitment to excellence, along with her tremendous talent and God-given abilities are an inspiration.

“On behalf of the city, I’m pleased to offer her my congratulations. For all she has accomplished, I feel like this is only the beginning. ‘Dr. Hardy’ has a nice ring to it!”

Hardy holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education K-8th from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree in Community Mental Health Counseling from the University of New Orleans. In her doctoral program, she completed a capstone project titled, “Behavioral Health Leaders’ Crisis Preparedness in Health Care Organizations.”

“I worked closely with four participants at an organization in the southern region of the United States for a year, conducting face-to-face interviews, phone interviews, and reviewing records to gather data for the capstone,” Hardy said.

She noted the significance of her topic is highlighted by a number of critical factors. For example, she said, her study was prompted by “the growing number of crises in the United States, including natural and man-made disasters.”

Her study focused on “identifying critical concerns in higher-level leadership training for supporting teams and managing crises,” she said. The study followed The Baldrige Excellence Framework, which includes seven Health Care Criteria for Performance Excellence including: leadership, strategy, customers, measurement, analysis, and knowledge; workforce, operations, and results.

Hardy said that her research shows there are seven key themes, such as preparedness, administration, REPC (regional emergency planning committee), training, staff, stakeholders, and BHL (behavioral health leaders)/senior leaders that needed to be addressed to improve crisis involvement at the organization.

“From these findings, I also presented detailed recommendations to the organization outlining an eight-phase plan with a 12-month timeline to assist in implanting leadership involvement,” she said.

Looking back, Hardy said she has always wanted to earn a doctorate, but it always seemed like the time was not right. “Then the time was right, when I wanted to show my daughter, that all things are possible and that she can do anything with hard work and perseverance,” she said.

Soon after she passed her oral defense, her husband, Andrell Hardy, shared the news on Facebook. “Congrats Dr. Neifa Hardy on a successful defense,” he posted. “2 1/2 years of research and countless hours of reading and writing! We are so proud of you.”

In addition to her work with the City of Natchez, Neifa Hardy is the public information officer for the Emergency Management for Adams County, a position she has held for about four years. She is also co-owner of Helping Hands Counseling and Behavioral Services.

When asked about her plans, Neifa Hardy said she will “continue to work in the mental health field and work closely with organizations to build teams and strategies to support crisis involvement in leadership.”