Experience, Engagement, Service-Learning
As far back as high school, Jeana Magyar has been a shoulder to lean on. She was voted by her student body as the best “peer listener.”
Professor Magyar is a trusted advisor now to hundreds of UW-Stevens Point psychology alumni who keep in touch with her as they begin and grow in their careers. In fact, a number of her current and former students led efforts to nominate Magyar for the UWSP 2022 Excellence in Teaching Award, submitting their letters about her inspirational teaching.
Students writing award nomination entries for Magyar often referenced her first-year seminar, The Pursuit of Happiness, and her related Positive Psychology course as weeks that deeply impacted their world views, in and out of her class experiences.
“We wrote hope letters to ourselves,” said senior Elizabeth Caldwell ‘22, a psychology major. “It’s exactly what a freshman needed then to find themselves.”
Caldwell said she recently pulled out her own letter to reflect on her goals. Caldwell has spent the past two semesters lending her support to high school students at the Charles F. Fernandez Center for Alternative Learning in an internship program that Magyar helped place her in. She hopes to continue working with young adults in counseling when she graduates in December.
An alumna of UWSP herself, Magyar was highly engaged in the field while she was an undergraduate.
“I had a strong drive to achieve,” said Magyar. “I asked questions in classes and was eager to apply scholarship to the real world.”
Magyar was involved in student research and got to know her faculty very well. She served as president of the Psychology Club and the UWSP Chapter of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology. Her academic work was recognized with the Albertson Medallion, the university’s highest honor, her senior year. She earned her Psychology B.S. in 1998. At the encouragement of her former professor Mark Plonsky, Magyar applied to the University of Kansas doctoral program where she said her preparation in practice counseling sessions at UWSP and familiarity with the human services concentration and related texts gave her confidence to succeed. After she completed her doctoral work in 2003, Magyar returned to Stevens Point to accept a position left vacant from the retirement of another favorite psychology professor, Wayne Lerand.
Six years later, she was promoted to associate professor. She earned her first University Award for her teaching at UWSP in 2006 and was named a Katz Distinguished Professor in 2010.
“It’s very example-driven, I show them what I’m teaching; I get them discussing, being active with the material, engaging both thoughts and emotions,” said Magyar.
Magyar shared that in addition to teaching, she loves being able to continue her research work, mentoring a handful of undergraduate research groups each year. Before the pandemic, her last project examined the impact of using inclusive language in the classroom. Students conducted surveys to measure and study intellectual safety in the college classroom. That work was presented at the National Institute for the Teaching of Psychology Annual Conference in Florida.
In addition to her current role of full professor, Magyar remains a licensed clinical psychologist, in practice in Stevens Point since 2009.
“I love what I do. I can take and learn from what I am hearing and give it to the students, to help give a gift that will get them further faster,” Magyar said.
Her personal clinical work helps her to shape effective lessons and real-world, often emotional, examples about how best to help people.
“She loves what she does and that’s why she’s effective,” said Caldwell.
The curriculum and experiential learning opportunities have changed in her time with the Department of Psychology at UWSP. Multiple internship experiences, including over the summer, have improved the capacity for undergraduate hands-on learning. New specializations have been offered, including a neuroscience minor, more options for the human services concentration, and a substance abuse counseling certification.
Magyar and her students have researched emotional and psychological outcomes of service-learning, the effects of couples’ gratitude journaling on relationship satisfaction and well-being, and the effectiveness of a positive psychology psychoeducational training program for children. She also published a book entitled “Therapist’s Guide to Positive Psychological Interventions” to share multiple ways in which scholarship can be applied to make a direct impact on others.
“I’m making a difference in people’s lives. And hopefully the students are making similar differences in people’s lives,” she said.