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Erin Hardin

Hardin with partner Jeff Larsen and daughters: eight-year-old Ani on Hardin’s left, and 10-year-old Kaya on her right.

A professor of psychology and the director of undergraduate studies for psychology, Erin Hardin has been at UT since 2013. She is currently conducting research on the role of the self in well-being, including how we see ourselves in relation to others and what career choices we make because of that.

“I was the chair of the committee that worked for two and a half years to redesign the general education curriculum for the university. The new curriculum will go into effect in fall 2020, and we’re excited about the opportunities for students to experience general education in new and more meaningful ways.”

Hardin also studies the career and educational decisions of students in East Tennessee. She has received three federal grants to look at career and educational opportunities for adolescents and adults in the region.

“With our PiPES Project—Possibilities in Postsecondary Education and Science—we go to three rural Appalachian high schools and work with about 600 10th graders a year,” she said. “We help them explore their interests and values and how those map onto the world of work, the ways in which education after high school can help them get to those goals, how they overcome barriers to education, and then hopefully try and get them involved in science and math in general.”

Advice to her college-age self

“To trust myself more, to like myself more.”

Hardin went to Grinnell College in Iowa. She graduated with her PhD from Ohio State University in 2002. While she feels she was able to balance academics and fun as an undergraduate, Hardin said, “I worried way too much about other people liking me.”

Outside interests

Hardin on the Great Wall of China while studying abroad as a college student.

“I really enjoy playing poker, Texas Hold’em,” she said.

Hardin began playing poker while living in Texas. Before she had kids, she would play once a week at a restaurant in town. Later, she and some friends formed their own poker league.

Hardin and her partner, fellow psychology professor Jeff Larsen, have their hands full with two daughters—10-year-old Kaya and eight-year-old Ani—who are “both full of life, exuberant and spirited.”

She also likes to sing in her church choir. Hardin is an alto at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville.


“The last book I finished was Ready Player One.” The book is set in a post-apocalyptic world and involves virtual reality video games. “I really liked it because I was a geek of the ’80s and I rode my bike to the arcade to play video games.”

Dream dinner companion

Laura Ingalls Wilder. “I was obsessed with those books when I was younger; I would read them over and over.”

Still on her bucket list

Hiking part of the Appalachian Trail and traveling to India, Ghana, and Tanzania.

To unwind from the day

“Family time is really important to me,” she said, adding that she tries to avoid bringing work home on the weekends so she can spend as much time as possible with her family.

“We have dinner as a family almost every night, and then after the kids go to bed my partner and I are watching Netflix or Amazon Prime.”

If she didn’t do this

“I used to joke that If I didn’t get tenure, I would open a doggy day care and just take care of dogs all day—but I don’t think I would do that anymore.”

This fall Hardin had the opportunity to deploy with the American Red Cross and did disaster mental health work after the hurricanes. On less than 24 hours’ notice, Hardin flew to Texas.

“It was so humbling and inspiring to see the generosity and grace of the shelter residents, who, despite still being in a Red Cross shelter weeks after the disaster, were so invested in building community and sharing what they had. Those moments of generosity and grace far outnumbered and helped balance the moments of stress and hopelessness.”

Hardin said she’d love to do more work with the Red Cross and help people cope with disasters.

College extracurricular

While attending Grinnell College, Hardin was a tour guide and active in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. Along with a couple of friends, she founded an AIDS and HIV awareness group. She was involved with the gay-straight alliance on campus and was a part of one of the very first marches on Washington for gay rights, in 1993. Hardin also studied abroad in China.