Psychology prof receives award for inspirational service

Dr. Jennifer Feenstra, professor of psychology at Northwestern College, is the recipient of the college’s 2017 Faculty Inspirational Service Award. Her selection was announced at a recognition banquet for faculty and staff on May 8.

The award recognizes faculty members who go beyond excellence in their performance, have demonstrated a selfless commitment to service, and whose commitment to Christ is apparent in their daily work and interactions. A selection committee composed of faculty and staff chose the winner from among candidates nominated by Northwestern employees.

Feenstra, a member of the faculty since 2003, has been described as a master teacher, deeply caring educator and one who’s always willing to devote extra time to serve her students. Dr. John Vonder Bruegge, who serves with her as co-director of the college’s Honors Program, says Feenstra teaches at least one new course each year, which means “she’s willing to fill in gaps and go in new directions with the material she and the psychology department offer.”

Dr. Laird Edman, professor of psychology, says Feenstra is an enthusiastic and creative educator. “Our students flock to her not just because she is clear and fair, but also because she so obviously cares for them and enjoys them. Jennifer works so very well with students that her research team is unable to accommodate all who would like to join it.” 

Colleagues also note that Feenstra coordinates the orientation for new faculty and often is asked to chair committees. “She is systematic, organized and gets things done,” says Edman. “She is one of those people who becomes a leader in the organization because others quickly learn to trust her ability and execution. She is always pleasant and cheerful, and she tends to expect the best of those around her.

“Her care for her students, thoughtful competence in the classroom and deep friendships all spring out of a dedication to the gospel,” adds Edman. “Jennifer is a humble and accomplished scholar, educator, scientist and servant. She represents just what one hopes to have in a colleague and friend. She always places the good of Northwestern—and especially of our students—ahead of her own self-interest and, in doing so, makes this a much better place.”

A social psychologist, Feenstra has research interests in social support, volunteering and service learning. Her research has been published in the Journal of College Student Development, Teaching of Psychology, Journal of Psychology and Christianity, and the Journal of Education and Christian Belief. She has made presentations at meetings of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and the American Psychological Association. A Fulbright Scholar in Romania in 2011–12, Feenstra studied the effects of the New Horizons Foundation’s youth development work and taught at Babes-Bolyai University.

Feenstra earned a doctorate and two master’s degrees at the University of New Hampshire. She did her undergraduate study at Calvin College in Michigan.