Getting to Know You: Stephen Wester

Stephen Wester - SOE newsletter faculty profile.

This month, we’re starting a new feature in the e-newsletter, a personal conversation with faculty or staff members to give colleagues and community members a chance to get to know them better. Stephen Wester, professor of educational psychology, was willing to volunteer, along with others you’ll be hearing about in the near future. Read on for a quick question-and-answer profile of Wester, his work and what he likes to do outside the walls of Enderis.

In addition to being a professor of educational psychology, Wester is an avid Star Trek and science fiction fan. He and his family also enjoy martial arts, and a month or so ago, he turned up in a television news segment on the topic.

Q. What is your position here?

A. I’m a professor of educational psychology first and a counseling psychologist second. I see my primary role here as researcher and scholar. Most of what people see me do is as director of clinical training for our accredited counseling doctoral program. We currently have 43 students in that program. I’m responsible for them from interview through admission through dissertation, internship and graduation

Q. What led you to the field of counseling psychology in the first place?

A. I’ve always been interested in people. I discovered a passion for figuring out why things worked the way that they did and why people function the way they do, why society teaches them what it does. I come from a family of engineers, and engineers are always looking for solutions trying to figure out why something happens or doesn’t happen. That played a large role in my decision to turn toward the academic side of counseling psych. I wanted to look at the social and contextual variables that affect outcomes. How can we as counseling psychologists, applied psychologists, improve lives and help improve society?

Q. What do you like best about your job?

A. The people I work with. That’s overwhelmingly what keeps me in the counseling area and the department of educational psychology in general. The other thing is the students. I enjoy working with the master’s students especially because I earned a separate master’s degree as well back in the day.

Q. What you do for fun?

A. I don’t take my work home, though I know a lot of colleagues do. I’ve got pretty strict boundaries between the work, the office and the house. I enjoy martial arts.

My family and I have all been training at Ascension Martial Arts in Oak Creek for 14 years. My son started when he was four – he’s now 18 and a freshman at UWM. I joined about a year after that. My wife has also trained, though she’s taking a break because of an injury. My daughter, who’s 23 and a graduate of the nursing program here, is working her way through the lower belts.

I play golf — my wife’s learning the game. I also have a passion for restoring old muscle cars, and I’m very much into hunting and shooting sports as well as the self-defense sports.

Q. You’re kind of a Star Wars and science fiction fan, too? I remember seeing a lot of pieces in your office last time I interviewed you.

A. Yes. The Star Trek component in particular. Star Wars is fun and always has been, but I’ve always been a Star Trek fan since I was a kid. I bring Star Trek, the philosophy and some of the ideals into the classes I teach as examples. The writers and actors wrestled with some of the same issues. My son’s middle name, Lafayette, is actually from the Star Trek series. We do conventions and attend events as a family. I have a uniform and phasers – the whole thing.

Q. Your research area of specialty has been masculinity. What led you into that area?

A. I grew up in a nontraditional environment. I have a very feminist, 2nd generation feminist for a mother and a very traditional –sort of in the Robert Holden, Lee Marvin model — father. I have pictures of little me marching for equal rights back in the day, and I learned from my dad what it meant to be an honorable man. I developed an interest in gender as a construct, going back to my undergraduate days. I realized pretty quickly that there were a lot of pretty competent psychologists studying women, but not so many looking at the male gender – their lives and their roles and their problems that are impacted by the social construction of gender. So, I’ve been focused on that for 20 years.