Assistant Professor of Psychology, Penn State Shenango
by Megan Scott '96 and Christopher Poore '14
In March 2005, a newspaper reporter called the Knox College Office of
Public Relations looking for "Professor Yuna Engle." After reading an article in
The Journal of Adolescent Research on teenage girls and their fascination with teen idols, co-written by psychology professor Tim Kasser and Engle, the reporter wanted to speak with one of its authors. What the reporter didn't realize was that "Professor Yuna Engle" didn't exist -- at least, not yet.
But after graduating from Knox College in 2004, securing her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and marrying into a new surname, Professor Yuna Engle Ferguson did exist as a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Knox College from 2010-2012.
"I had a really good experience here as a student," Ferguson said. “I already knew [the faculty] to be very helpful in developing me as a student, so I knew that they would support me as a new faculty member as well."
Independent research occupied much of Ferguson’s time as a Knox student. During her sophomore year, her interest in teen idols prompted a study of 142 junior high school girls in the Galesburg area, which was supported with funding from the McNair Scholarship Program. This research resulted in an article titled "Why Do Girls Idolize Celebrities?"
Ferguson also completed an honors project during her senior year at Knox. The project, which included data gathered from Chicago, Denmark, and Korea high schools, looked at how support from parents and teachers of high school students was associated with the students’ satisfaction with school and life.
"Doing those projects really helped me understand what it is to be a scientist," she added, "what it is to study human behavior and the mind. The experiences really helped in grad school too. I felt as though I had more experience."
As a Knox professor, Ferguson taught Social Psychology (her area of specialization), Introduction to Psychology, and Research Methods over the course of the academic year. Ferguson also pioneered a new course at Knox -- Positive Psychology -- a branch of psychology that seeks to increase happiness rather than merely maintain an average state of mental health.
And while Ferguson may be on the other side of the lectern -- now as an assistant professor of psychology at Penn State Shenango -- she continues to love the learning process, the give-and-take between professor and student.
"I love meeting with students," said Ferguson. "That's what really makes this job fun for me -- to get to know students and to see what their interests are."