Faculty Profile

Piljoo Kang

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Email: kangp@spu.edu
Phone: 206-281-2916
Office: Marston 116

Education: BA, University of California-Berkeley, 1984; MEd, Harvard University, 1985; MA, Fuller Theological Seminary, 1993; MA, California State University-Northridge, 2003; PhD, University of California-Santa Barbara, 2009. At SPU since 2022.

As a sociocultural developmental psychologist, Dr. Piljoo Kang’s research interests focus on mentoring relationships for minority/marginalized adolescents and racial identity development among White emerging adults. Her primary research focuses on the sociocultural and contextual influences of family and community mentors on the psychological functioning of minority and marginalized children and adolescents. Her second line of research involves White racial identity development among emerging adults. Unlike minority children who grow up being socialized into thinking about their race and culture, White adolescents and emerging adults are under-socialized to be engaged in sustained constructive conversations involving race, ethnicity, privilege, and structural racism. Her research examines the psychological meaning-making and racial identity development among today’s White young adults.

Before coming to SPU, she taught and mentored a diverse population of students at a major Hispanic-serving public institution (California State University, Northridge) and a private Christian liberal arts college (Azusa Pacific University) in California as well as in the South (Toccoa Falls College). She teaches with passion, creativity, and dedication. She believes students’ agentive power and self-efficacy are the most crucial aspect of teaching and learning. She encourages students to become active participants in their growth and connect the content materials they learn in the classroom to the actual world they find themselves in.  

Prior to teaching full-time at higher educational institutions, she had worked as a director for an inner-city youth mentoring program in Lincoln Heights of Los Angeles, providing education, pastoral care, and counseling for the underprivileged, at-risk child and youth of Mexican and Korean immigrant families. As a practitioner working with children and adolescents in community settings, she understood how faith-based community organizations could provide support and resources for at-risk children to facilitate their educational successes. 

Essentially, she is a multicultural interdisciplinary educator. She sees human development not only from a psychological point of view but also from anthropological, theological, and linguistic perspectives. As a Christian developmental scientist who recognizes the transformative nature of human beings and the inner workings of the Holy Spirit in individual hearts, her ultimate life goal is to become a knowledgeable guide and an authentic mentor for her students.

Selected publications

*undergraduate students

Cissell, A.*, Smith, R.*, Nail, H.*, & Kang, P. (February, 2022). The impact of family of origin & diversity of environment on self-concept among White young adults. [Poster Presentation]. Society for Personality and Social Psychology. San Francisco, CA.

Smith, R.* and Kang, P. (2022). Access to Culturally Competent Childcare Services for Refugee Families in Clarkston, Georgia. Public Justice

Kang, P. & Skeen, K.* (February, 2022). The Intersectionality of White racial identity and being a Southern Christian. [Data Blitz presentation]. Self and Identity Preconference, at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. San Francisco, CA.

Kang, P. (under review). Ethnic church mentoring: Buffer against outside prejudice and inside pressure for success. Journal of Community Psychology

Kang, P. (July 2021). White Identity: Perspectives on White Privilege. [Data Blitz] 32nd International Congress of Psychology in Prague, the Czech Republic. Hybrid.

Kang, P. (2020). Instructor’s Resource Manual and Test Bank & Lecture PPT. For Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect 10th Edition by Crosson-Tower. Hoboken, NJ: Pearson.

Kang, P and Romo, L. (2011). The role of church engagement, spirituality, and mentoring relationships in developmental outcomes of Korean American adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 34, 767-778.

Please view Dr. Kang's CV for additional publications.