Professor of Psychology at California State University, Northridge.
Bachelor’s of Art in Psychology and Speech, 1986; Master of Education, 1991; Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University, 1997
Scott Plunkett, Ph.D., has been a teacher, mentor and advisor of undergraduate and graduate students at California State University, Northridge, for 10 years.
He leads a somewhat interesting life, which includes:
- Teaching parenting education workshops to Latino, Chinese or Armenian parents in Southern California;
- Conducting research that examines adolescent development in youth from different cultures;
- Teaching college classes in a culturally diverse university about family life and research;
- Doing volunteer work for children and families in different states and countries and various non-profit agencies;
- Hiking up mountains;
- Having homes in Los Angeles, as well as Belize, Central America, where he enjoys fishing, kayaking, boating, reading and napping in the hammock when he visits twice a year during the summer and winter;
- And in general, enjoying life, which has sort of become Scott’s mantra. He said he knows that it is important to do what you enjoy for work and to be sure and balance work with recreational time.
Another interesting thing about Scott is although he may have been teaching marriage and parenting courses for the last 15 years, he has never been married and has no children, although he looks forward to being married someday.
Prior to becoming a college professor, Scott was a high school teacher, worked in social services and completed his doctorate.
He taught high school speech, debate, math and journalism in Sunray, Texas, for one year, and taught speech, math and psychology in Cherokee for two years. His work for a non-profit agency had him counseling, designing and supervising child and family programs.
He explained that given his career goals, he feels his biggest mistake was not getting involved in research as an undergraduate student. He said this would have helped with his acceptance into a doctoral program and become a faculty member much quicker; however, had he done that, he would not have gained the knowledge he now has about the areas he currently researches and teaches.
Scott gives credit to Northwestern for helping him to prepare for his current position.
“Northwestern gave me a good foundation in psychology to build upon in my doctoral program, opened my eyes to future career possibilities, allowed me the opportunity to develop my speaking and performing abilities, which have greatly helped me be an effective and engaging teacher,” he said.
Scott also loves doing volunteer work. In fact, he began this philanthropy as a student at Northwestern and has just continued through the years.
“I can’t imagine living in a community without doing volunteer work,” he said.
Last year while Scott was on sabbatical in Belize, he helped start up a small library in a small fishing village.
He is on the board for Volunteers of America Los Angeles where he said “they do all kinds of awesome programs.” He also assists a program called BookEnds that helps students from affluent schools conduct book drives to then take to young students in poorer schools.
“This program is so important because California is almost last for number of books per kid, and LA is way below the California average,” he said. “I help them do their evaluation so they can write grants to continue the service.”
He also has helped a group in Oklahoma with a sexuality education program for adults with developmental disabilities; helped a group in LA that teaches ballet to kids with physical disabilities; and assisted an organization with parenting education for about 20,000 parents.
For the last five years, Scott has been invited to do some volunteer work for a group called SERFAC (Service and Research Foundation of Asia on Family and Culture), including speaking at their United Nations-sponsored World Congress on children and families that takes place in New Delhi, India.
For one reason or another, Scott hadn't been able to attend the World Congress, that is, until January 2009 when he spent a few days speaking at the event. A World Congress is where government officials, politicians, NGO representatives, academics, researchers, UN representatives, spiritual leaders, children, etc., get together from all the world to discuss pertinent issues, and then come up with some propositions/declarations. This congress was on "Giving Children a Voice."
Issues discussed included child trafficking, equal access to education, gender discrimination, refugee/transnational/migrant families, child labor, street children. The hope is that the congress will stimulate dialogue on these issues, encourage participants to advocate for social change, give information to the media for advocacy, and generate propositions for various influential bodies like the United Nations and other governments, to guide policy/declarations.
Plunkett's humor and knowledge during his presentations led those in attendance to gather around for more information afterward.
Alumni and friends of Northwestern attending the annual Alumni Spring Reunion Banquet the last Saturday in April witnessed some of Scott's humor at this event. Scott was one of three alumni who were named as 2009 Outstanding Graduates at Northwestern and returned to campus for the dinner to accept his award and make a few remarks.
Q. What are your most fond memories of Northwestern?
A. Socializing with friends (I made many good friends at Northwestern who are still friends today), attending school-related activities, and my most fond memory is walking across stage to get my bachelor’s degree. I am the first person in my family to get a college degree.
Q. How involved on campus were you when you were here?
A. I was very involved in my student organizations, including Student Government. I am a firm believer in “service” to one’s community, and campus involvement is one form of giving back to the campus community. It also provides excellent opportunities to develop confidence, leadership skills, networking skills and friendships.
Q. Did you live on or off-campus?
A. I alternated between living on and off-campus. I liked living on campus because I felt more a part of the campus community and developed more friendships in the residence halls. However, living off campus allowed me to feel more independent and transition from adolescence into adulthood.
Q. Sometimes college students change their majors a few times after arriving at school. What about you?
A. I changed my major numerous times. I initially thought I would go into engineering or computer science, and then thought I would major in math, but I ended up receiving bachelor’s degrees in psychology and speech/drama. I chose psychology because I really liked the courses and faculty who taught the courses. A variety of occurrences resulted in my also getting a degree in speech/drama. I was dating a girl who was in many plays, and I was drafted to play a minor role in one of the plays since I was hanging around backstage waiting for my girlfriend. At the same time, I was volunteering for the Alva High School Speech and Debate team (also due to my girlfriend’s influence). I received great mentoring from the Alva High Speech Coach (Charlene Bradt) and the Northwestern theatre director (Dr. Linda Stewart). Next thing I knew, I was finishing a double-major and taking education classes so I could teach speech and drama in the public schools.
Q. They say that failure and/or making mistakes sometimes can be the best teacher. Do you have any advice to share about failures or mistakes that have taught you an important lesson?
A. Take a risk and ask that girl out! Don’t wait until the last minute to do homework, write papers, etc., (learned this lesson in my doctoral program). Don’t give papers you wrote to someone, even if they promise they are just going to “look” at them to see how you wrote them. Don’t walk out of your dorm room naked, even if the bathroom is only 10 steps away.
Learn more about Scott Plunket here: http://www.csun.edu/plunk/.