Workforce education assistant professor earns Fellow award

Jim Carlson
July 21, 2020

Hyung Joon Yoon has spent his career helping people achieve their dreams and become effective career development professionals and leaders, and his colleagues within the National Career Development Association (NCDA) have awarded him with one of that organization’s most prestigious honors because of it.

Yoon, assistant professor of workforce education and development in the College of Education’s Department of Learning Performance Systems at Penn State, recently was named a Fellow by the NCDA, an award conferred to honor outstanding and substantial contributions in science, teaching and training, practice, service, policy development and political action. 

Yoon has consistently presented at NCDA since 2008 and twice has been a board member. “I did not do it to get recognition but I wanted to be an agent for change in the field of career development with innovative practices,” he said. He has developed theoretical models and assessment tools, and helped empower people and organizations with human agency and hope through research and practice.

“My message to the world is that the essence of career development, leadership development, and organization development (or organizational change) is the same. We are all humans equipped with human agency,” Yoon said. “By understanding and practicing how you can be an agent in your life, you could make your life and others’ lives hopeful and fulfilling.

“If you learn how to co-create a desired future of a group, you can become a founder and an organizational leader. The essence is the common elements of human agency — self-reflectiveness, forethought, intentionality and self-reactiveness. The scope of your influence will differ depending on your capability to work with other people,” he said.

Yoon said that since the NCDA Fellow is selected by Fellows who already demonstrated impact in the field in various ways, it means that his work in all domains has been recognized in a legitimate way. 

“The NCDA Fellow Award is unique in the sense that it looks at the person’s impact from multiple perspectives — research, teaching, policy development, practice and leadership,” he said. “My strategy was not to focus on research only but to focus on creating lasting impact through various activities including research. I am highly grateful for the fact that my colleagues saw that.”

Yoon said empowerment means facilitating people to fully exert their agency to achieve the desired state that can bring them meaning, hope, and joy. “Therefore, what I do is to help individuals and organizations to reach an optimal state through their concerted actions,” he said, adding that having hope as the first step is highly effective.

The Hope-Action Theory (HAT) Yoon and his colleagues — Spencer Niles and Norman Amundson — developed entails the mechanism for people to be hopeful and agentic by synthesizing three theories: Rick Snyder’s hope theory, Albert Bandura’s human agency theory, and Douglas Hall’s career metacompetencies. “We put ‘hope’ at the center of the theory, and on the outer circle, the following six competencies appear: self-reflection, self-clarity, visioning, goal-setting and planning, implementing, and adapting,” he explained.

He also developed the Human Agency-Based Individual Transformation (HABIT) model for career development, leadership, and organizational change, and HABIT has been a central framework for much of his research and practice, including the use of HAT.

“All of the theories and models that I developed are to empower individuals and organizations with human agency and hope. Once they know how to navigate through their change process, no consultant is needed, which is ultimate empowerment, and the goal of organization development,” Yoon said.

Additionally, Yoon also applied appreciative inquiry for NCDA and other organizations “Appreciative inquiry, aligned with HABIT, emphasizes the positive aspects of an organization or a person, and the use of it creates an uplifting atmosphere with anticipatory thought processes,” Yoon said.

“Sometimes, organizations focus on fixing problems, and it often becomes dreadful and painful to many stakeholders. There are many cases where organizational issues can be resolved without even mentioning issues by taking a positive approach, such as appreciative inquiry. I tell people that I use appreciative inquiry to communicate about the approach that I take.”

Penn State also was represented in the NCDA awards by Diandra Prescod, assistant professor of education (counselor education); Julia Bryan, associate professor of education (counselor of education); and Penn State alumna Mary Edwin, assistant professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who were honored for writing the Career Development Quarterly article of the year. 

“Yes, Penn State is where future career development practitioners and researchers can grow. It happened not only through counselor education but also through workforce education and development and human development and family studies programs,” Yoon said. “I feel like I am standing on the shoulders of a giant in the field of career development. It is a heavy responsibility; however, this is a great stimulus for the development of myself and my students.”

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Last Updated July 27, 2020