Dr. Melissa Mork, a professor and chair of the psychology department at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, has been involved in many different types of humor studies through the years, but her works are no joke.

Mork has made many serious accomplishments in her research of humor, including therapeutic humor. She serves on the board for the Urban Cross Cultural College Consortium, and she teaches many psychology courses including general psychology, abnormal psychology, psychology of counseling, and manipulating spousal behavior using psychological control.

Mork attended Jamestown for her undergraduate degree. While attending Jamestown, she majored in psychology, religion, and philosophy, and then went on to receive her masters and doctorate in clinical psychology from the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology. She completed her doctoral practicum work with the Minneapolis Public School District and with Bethel University’s health services. She then completed her doctoral internship at the University of Minnesota-Duluth Medical School.

Mork said that her start at Northwestern was a gift from God. She always knew she wanted to work in a Christ-centered environment, but because her doctorate was in clinical psychology, most of her training was as a clinician. Mork sent her CV to several clinics around the state and even a few colleges. Afterward, she received an invitation to come to campus for an interview and immediately fell in love, partly because it was the Christ-centered job she had wanted in her field of study. She said that even though she got a few other offers she knew this was where God wanted her, so she started teaching in late 2002.

Melissa Mork takes humor very seriously (photo courtesy of Melissa Mork).

Melissa Mork takes humor very seriously
(photo courtesy of Melissa Mork).

Mark’s significant studies in the field of humor started a few years ago. Her main areas of interest and research surround humor in the form of humor and coping, the use of humor in parenting, in leadership and in relationships. She places a lot on the value of using humor to “build resilience, to diffuse tension in relationships, to build rapport in therapy, to establish healthy group dynamics, to even out leadership hierarchies and so much more.”

Mork says the study of humor is no laughing matter though. “It’s not as frivolous as it sounds,” she said. “There is strong research published in counseling, social work, psychology, pedagogy, linguistics, even medical journals.” She has been working on some studies in humor at Northwestern. She, with the help of Dr. Katie Friesen Smith, has conducted research on Northwestern students’ humor styles, parenting styles and emotional intelligence, and on staff/faculty humor styles, leadership styles and emotional intelligence.

She is even working towards setting up another study. Currently, she is on the board for the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, and she is the academic director of the Humor Academy. Mork stated that the Humor Academy is a three-year college level humor studies program offered through the association. She said, “Students who take these courses receive credit on their transcripts. These courses, though, are available to anyone who is interested in pursuing an education in the area of humor studies. When someone completes three years of study, including a final research project and meets all other requirements, he or she can receive the designation of a certified humor professional.”

Mork completed that process herself a few years ago. She became a certified humor professional and then went on to accept the role of director of the program. She has made quite the achievement.

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