John Fennig, Ph.D.

Consulting/Counseling Psychologist, SJU '82


Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Milwaukee, WI and I was adopted at 6 months old. I lived in Milwaukee for 18 years before I left to go to Saint John's University.

Why did you choose to attend College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University?

I chose CSB/SJU because I enjoyed the single gender education (all guys with proximity to all girl school/campus). I wanted to be far from home. I really wanted to establish myself as an individual. CSB/SJU are Catholic institutions and that played into my decision as well as the scholarships I received and the reception/welcoming I received when I visited.

Why or what made you decide to become a Psychology Major at CSB/SJU?

At first, I resisted a major. I knew that I wanted to be a "Professional" in something and I knew that Graduate School was in the future, but did not know what. I minored in Spanish and Philosophy while at CSB/SJU and I actually thought about priesthood. But, I always wanted to be of service to others in some way. That was important to me. I am a "late bloomer" you could say or a "P" on the Myer's Briggs Scale. I was a TA in the Philosophy Department and this connection made me interested in psychology.

What is your favorite memory of the Psychology Department at CSB/SJU?

My favorite memory's include: 1) When I took Professor Tony Sorem's Statistics course and it just clicked for me. Later down the road, I finally realized how much this Statistics course helped me through Graduate School. 2) I took a Social Psychology course with Professor Norman James and that class along with my relationship with Professor James has stayed strong and I have actually been able to help him with his practice. 3) I loved the mentoring that took place for me while I was at CSB/SJU; I was able to go to a MPA (Minnesota Psychology Association) seminar up in Brainerd, MN that featured a very well-known Psychologist, Sigmund Koch. I really got involved after this and I really benefitted from it.

Where did you go for Graduate School? Why did you choose that school?

I was one of very few from my graduating class at CSB/SJU that went on to Graduate School right after undergraduate. Out of about 70-80 psychology majors, probably only about 5 went on to Graduate School. In 1981 and 1982, Clinical Psychology was HOT and it was the "thing" to do. I went to The Ohio State University for Graduate School in Counseling Psychology. I chose Ohio State University because it was one school I was admitted to, but really because they offered a specialization in Consulting/Counseling Psychology. To my surprise later, I found out that OSU was one of the top 3 programs at that time to get in to.

What are some "tips" or advice that you may have for current students at CSB/SJU who are looking at graduate schools or a career in psychology in the near future?

I think that there are many "tips" that someone could give a student looking to go to Graduate School, but I think that one of the most important "tips" is to find a niche. One of the most important things that I learned through my experiences is that it's about fit, not competence. I was able to find my niche at OSU because of their specialization in Consulting. Also, within the field of psychology, there are so many different divisions and channels that a student could get interested in. My advice would be to go to and research all of the different divisions that are offered and make sure that the student decides what they are interested in. I think then from there the student is able to research Graduate School Programs and pay attention to the entry requirements and detail their work towards them. It is important that the search begins sophomore/junior year so that the student is really able to tailor their schedule to those requirements; along with trying to job shadow and get first hand experience. This will really help them out in knowing whether or not they can see themselves in that specific field. Lastly, in my experience, it was important to go straight through schooling...from Undergraduate to Graduate School immediately. It is a hard process and there are many ups and downs, but the most important thing is not to lose heart!

Where and what was your first job?

The first job that I had took place while I was in Graduate School. I was hired by Price Waterhouse as a consultant and it was fun because they flew me around the country and I was able to experience so much during that time. Also, when I was finishing my pre-Doc at the Counseling Center at the University of Minnesota, I was hired by PDI (Personnel Decisions International) and was a Consulting Psychologist for them in 1989. These experiences really helped me in what I do today.

Where do you live now and what do you do currently?

I live now in North Oaks, Minnesota and I always wanted to return to Minnesota. I loved the Twin Cities, the lake property, the 4 seasons, and it was just a great place for me. I currently own my own company called DRI Consulting. It is a General Practice, Organization, and Human Resource Development Consulting firm. I am a "Work Psychologist."

What is the most rewarding part of your current profession?

There are many rewarding parts of my current job/profession. On a daily basis, I am working with leaders. Leaders of companies, cities, programs, and there is a ripple-effect that occurs because of the consulting work I do. I believe that the work that I do with those leaders effect a lot of people and that is rewarding to me. Also, because I own my own company I have the freedom to innovate. I am able to do what I want and have no restrictions. I think that this has helped me tremendously in building a practice that is flexible and that is adaptable. Lastly, I have time to do other things because of the fact that I am my own boss (working, playing, parenting).

Do you have any kids? If so, how many and how old are they?

Yes. I have 3 children. I have twins; Molly and Sean who are 10 and in Fifth grade, and Cameron who is 19 and a current sophomore at CSB/SJU.

Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us Dr. Fennig!