Sam Song of the department of educational psychology and higher education seeks ways to promote better school outcomes for all students.
I came here to be part of the growth and excitement in my academic program of school psychology, the university, and the Las Vegas area. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to focus more on research, mentor future researchers and professors, train school psychologists to work in such a large and diverse school district, and live closer to my family and recently widowed mother.
What about UNLV surprised you when you arrived?
The numerous trees and other greenery on campus — beautiful!
Where did you grow up and what was that like?
I grew up in So-Cal. My family, which included three older brothers, moved there from South Korea when I was 1. Upon immigrating, we were the only Asian family in an all Mexican-American neighborhood. It was fun, interesting, and very formative for me.
Tell us a little about your research specialties.
I'm interested in preventing negative school and psychosocial outcomes for kids. I research school bullying interventions and restorative justice in schools, as a way to promote better outcomes for all kids, especially those who are "ecological minorities." Ecological minority is a term that I am coining that highlights the complexity of minority status — those with less power. In addition to traditional minority status variables such as sex or race, another layer of minority status becomes apparent depending on the environment in which one finds themselves such as a school that is primarily African-American or Latino.
How do you think public schools should handle bullying?
Schools can address bullying best by doing an assessment of their unique situation first, then developing a plan of action based on the findings. The action plan, at a minimum, should include collaborating with families and implementing interventions that address core issues like restorative justice and social dynamics. I'm happy to consult with schools and families on this.
What inspired you to get into your field?
My younger cousin was a little brother to me. He found himself hanging out with gang bangers, dropping out of school, and engaging in delinquent behaviors after the death of his mother. School didn't seem to care, nor did his teachers. I did my best to help, but didn't know how. This question was the beginning of my mission in life.
What kind of professor would you like to be known as?
Caring, passionate, inspiring, and rigorous. Students who know me well know that I care deeply about their learning and success.
Finish this sentence, If I couldn't work in my current field, I would like to...
In retrospect, I would have liked to try stand-up comedy. I may do that later in my life or start here in Vegas!
Seeing my son grow up and enjoy learning. Also, not giving up on my cousin. He is now happily married and a good citizen.
Pastime or hobbies?
Olympic weight lifting, volleyball, watching football.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I won a dance competition in college. I won with hip hop moves. I grew up during the heyday of Dr. Dre/Ice Cube and their group NWA.