February 7, 2017
Purdue Profiles: Joseph Wetchler
Joseph Wetchler, professor and past director of marriage and family therapy at Purdue Northwest, has accomplished many things -- as witnessed by his 2016 Outstanding Contribution to Marriage and Family Therapy Award from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. After 25 years as program director, many awards and accolades, and 100 percent graduate placement rates, Wetchler has stepped into a new and unfamiliar role. He is now solely focusing on his students, which he considers to be his greatest reward.
What led you to this career path?
Through college my interest was in mental health. I started working as an undergrad in the mental health field. While I was a master’s student, my first internship was in psychology doing marriage and family therapy. I realized that what I wanted to do was to work with families and to work with couples. I’ve been doing it ever since.
What interested you about marriage and family therapy?
It fit with my views on mental health treatment. I think a lot more gets accomplished if you deal with the problem in the context of the system in which it is embedded. I used to work a lot in group homes and people would improve in the group home and go back to their families and they would just deteriorate. So, it just seemed to make more sense to start working with all of the people who were close to the person with the problem in order to work on solving it.
You served as director of the Marriage and Family Therapy program for 25 years. What are you most proud of accomplishing during that time?
I’m incredibly proud of what the program has accomplished. There was no program when I came here. I was hired to become the program director. As a program, we’ve had 100 percent employment rate for our graduates. We’ve had exceptional success in terms of our students getting placed into doctoral programs. A lot of our graduates are now major contributors to the field. That’s a pretty impressive outcome.
What are you focused on now at PNW?
Right now, I’m still focusing heavily on teaching and enjoying it. I’ve cut back on administration and on scholarship. I am devoting my time to the students, which has been a wonderful experience. Earlier in my career I was unable to give to them as much as I wanted to give because I was pulled in so many directions. Now I can focus solely on them.
Congratulations on your most recent award, AAMFT's 2016 Outstanding Contribution to Marriage and Family Therapy Award. What are your thoughts on that recognition?
I was incredibly honored and quite frankly surprised. I’ve received many awards throughout my career and I did not think this was one I was going to get. My colleagues put me up in secret. So, it was a very wonderful surprise. It’s quite humbling because some major people in my field have won this award and while I don’t think that my accomplishments equal my peers, it’s very nice and very humbling.
The award really speaks to what all of us as a team have done as well as what our administration has done. We’ve had incredible support from our administration. Plus, my colleagues Lorna Hecker, Jerry Bercik, Megan Murphy, Anne Edwards, and Dave Nalbone constantly push to improve the quality of our program.
What is your next career goal?
To be honest, I have surpassed all of my career goals. In terms of scholarship, administration, and professional recognition, I’ve surpassed them all. I think at this point, it’s really a time to devote myself to my students and enjoy teaching them. That truly has been an incredible reward for me.
What is the best lesson you've learned throughout your career?
Be open to the possibilities. My entire career has been about being open to opportunities that presented themselves to me. I never expected to be where I am when I started. I followed the opportunity to come here from another university. This opened a multitude of research opportunities and gave me the chance to work with incredibly amazing colleagues and students. I think if I had stayed at a Research 1 University and totally focused on one area of scholarship I never would’ve had the things open up to me that have, simply because I was open to the possibilities and the opportunities.
Writer: Cat Dillon, firstname.lastname@example.org, 317-869-5566