W. Bruce Walsh is one of the leading researchers and writers in the field of vocational psychology. Walsh was born into a family deeply committed to education. He is one of 11 members of his family to attend Pennsylvania State University. Walsh graduated from there with a B.S. degree in Economics from the Smeal College of Business Administration. It is perhaps his training as an economist that helped to develop his research interest in person-environment human behavior. Walsh, however, never worked as an economist. After completing his undergraduate degree, he went directly to Kent State University where he studied sociology and worked in residence halls coordinating programs and advising students.
Walsh continued his work with students as he pursued his doctorate at the University of Iowa. While he worked on the Ph.D. in Counseling and Vocational Psychology he continued his work with college students by advising the fraternity council and conducting academic counseling. It was during his career at the university that Walsh began to foment his identity as a psychologist with his placement as a junior counselor and intern at the Iowa University counseling center. His life also became cemented to vocational psychology as he worked with his major advisor, John Holland.
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Walsh’s long publishing career began with studies around his work with residence halls and academic advising. His early research seemed to forecast his later dedication to research on person-environment theories of human behavior in that his very first publication was titled “College Student Residence and Academic Achievement.” At about the same time, Walsh investigated the validity of self-report data. In many ways, the self-report research is seminal because so many researchers then and now use self-report as a primary assessment tool. Walsh’s research demonstrated that self-report data are accurate and valid. Although doubt continues to linger about self-report data, Walsh’s work was the first systematic inquiry into this assessment methodology and does provide some reassurance to the thousands of researchers who use self-report. Though individuals who know Walsh well remember the self-report studies, most students of psychology will recall Walsh for his person-environment work.
While at the University of Iowa Walsh began his decades-long association with person-environment research. It was perhaps Walsh’s early training as an economist and later research with college students that eventually led him to the study of the influence of the environment on the behavior of people and the influence of human behavior on the environment. He published one of his seminal works, Theories of Person-Environment Interaction. From there, Walsh conducted numerous person-environment studies and initiated the person-environment book series. Many of the investigations of John Holland’s theories are directly attributable to Walsh and his numerous graduate students. With about two dozen articles on Holland’s theories, Walsh invigorated the study of this vocational theory as well as inspired the study of other theories.
Walsh moved from a study of Holland’s theory to present a broader view of the specialty of vocational psychology. Walsh’s work has helped to shape a complete picture of Vocational Psychology. Walsh pulled together the leading researchers and writers in this field for his various handbook series. He began his initial work with the two-volume set of Handbook of Vocational Psychology with Samuel Osipow in 1983 and added four other handbooks that included as coeditor Mark Savickas for the 2005 edition of the Handbook of Vocational Psychology and Mary Heppner for the Handbook of Career Counseling for Women. Walsh also focused much of his vocational psychology research and publications on African Americans and fostered his colleagues’ writings on other racial/ethnic minorities and various economic classes. Because Walsh believed in exploring the entire range of variables in the study of the discipline, he and his colleagues essentially codified the specialty of vocational psychology. Walsh further stimulated the field of vocational psychology through his work in the Society of Counseling Psychology, a division of the American Psychological Association (APA). There Walsh helped found the Society for Vocational Psychology, a section of the Society of Counseling Psychology. Through the Society for Vocational Psychology, Walsh and his colleagues initiated a biennial conference on vocational psychology. The inaugural conference was hosted by Walsh in Columbus, Ohio, home of Ohio State University where Walsh served as a professor for 37 years. True to Walsh’s commitment to include the entire range of elements in any profession, the Society for Vocational Psychology held its first international vocational psychology conference in Portugal in 2003.
Although Walsh is one of the primary invigorators and codifiers of the specialty of vocational psychology, his interests and his impact on the field of psychology is much broader. Walsh could easily be called a measurement psychologist. After all, much of his work on Holland’s theory included validation studies of the Vocational Preference Inventory and the Self-Directed Search. But his wider work reviewed the entire field of psychological tests and assessments. He coauthored four volumes of tests and assessment books that discussed assessment of personality, cognitive ability, interests and career development, and person-environment. These books are written so that lay persons, scientists, and practitioners can have access to material that is sometimes considered out of reach because of its perceived difficulty.
Counseling and Counseling Intervention
Walsh has also been an active author on the subject of the entire field of counseling and counseling intervention methods. He regularly published overviews of counseling, counseling interactions, and counseling methods. In addition, Walsh has provided historical perspectives on the work of counseling psychology as the early adopters of positive psychology. And he has pushed counseling psychologists to be visionaries regarding the future of counseling psychology. He served as President of the Society of Counseling Psychology, Division 17 of the APA in 1998. During his tenure and shortly thereafter, he established a foundation for research in counseling psychology within the American Psychological Foundation and established the Division 17 Past Presidents Council in order to retain the heritage of the division and to push the further development of the field.
Walsh’s most enduring legacy to the field of counseling psychology in general and to vocational psychology in particular is the result of work with legions of graduate students and their subsequent work with their own graduate students. Walsh’s students can be found in professorships in higher education, as higher education administrators and practitioners, and organizational and corporate positions as well as in the private practice of psychology. From all of these quarters, numbers of these former students now write in the vocational psychology arena and thus ensure the vibrancy and dynamism of the discipline. For his stellar work, Walsh was honored with Fellowship status in the Division of Counseling Psychology and in the Association for Psychological Science.
Although Walsh is constantly sought after for his sage counsel in numerous areas, including as a book reviewer on topics from “Student Personnel Work in Urban Colleges” to “Measuring Ego Development,” his most profound and consistent work is with person-environment behavior. In order to encourage the research and study of careers, vocational psychology, and environment Walsh founded and edited the Journal of Career Assessment in 1991. From its inception through 2007, the journal has steadily grown in prominence. In 2006, the Journal of Career Assessment had a citation impact factor of 1.211. In addition, Walsh extended his sphere of influence beyond counseling psychology to a diverse group of colleagues who were working on his early and sustained research interest in human behavior and environments. He became active with Division 34 of the APA, Population and Environmental Psychology, and became the representative to the APA governing council, the Council of Representatives, on behalf of Division 34. Walsh’s service on the Council from 2002 to 2008 meant that he was involved in formulating policy and in helping to set direction for the entire field of psychology. His influence on the field of psychology is also reflected in his service as founding editor, acting editor, editorial board member, and/or editorial consultant on 11 major psychological journals. Walsh has published over 150 articles, book chapters, and books and has presented at major conventions nearly 100 times. His articles have appeared in leading academic journals, including the American Psychologist, the Journal of Counseling Psychologist, the Journal of Vocational Psychology, The Counseling Psychologist, Contemporary Psychology, and the Journal of College Student Personnel. His lifetime of sustained and valuable contributions was acknowledged when he received the Leona Tyler Award in 2004. The Leona Tyler Award is the highest recognition given by the Society of Counseling Psychology.
Walsh lives with his wife, Jane, in Columbus, Ohio. He retired from his 37-year career as a professor of psychology in 2002. He remains actively engaged with the psychology department in his role as Professor Emeritus at Ohio State University, and he serves as Executive Director of the W. B. W. Consulting Firm.
- Walsh, W. B. (1968). Validity of self-report: Another look. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 15, 180-187.
- Walsh, W. B. (1973). Theories of person-environment interaction. Iowa City, IA: American College Testing Program.
- Walsh, W. B. (1975). A book review of Student personnel work in urban colleges by T. F. Harrington. Contemporary Psychology, 20, 357-358.
- Walsh, W. B. (1998). A book review of Measuring ego development (Second edition) by Le Xuan Hy and Jane Loevinger, Lawrence Erlbaum Press. Contemporary Psychology, 43, 348-349.
- Walsh, W. B., & Betz, N. E. (1985). Tests and assessment. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Walsh, W. B., & Betz, N. E. (1985). Tests and assessment: A test item file. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Walsh, W. B, Craik, K. H., & Price, R. H. (Eds.). (1992). Person-environment psychology: Models and perspectives. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Walsh, W. B., Craik, K. H., & Price, R. H. (Eds.). (2000). Person-environment psychology: New directions and perspectives (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Walsh, W. B., & Osipow, S. H. (Eds.). (1983). Handbook of vocational psychology (Vol. 1). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Walsh, W. B., & Osipow, S. H. (Eds.). (1983). Handbook of vocational psychology (Vol. 2). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.