Assistant professor Brian TaeHyuk Keum received three early career awards from the American Psychological Association (APA) this summer that recognized his research contributions toward ethnic minority issues.
“I am really appreciative of these awards,” Keum said. “I really hope that this helps other students who might be thinking about this field, particularly in regards to if they were in a community where psychology or the way that we speak about multicultural issues is not something that was straight forward.”
Keum, the Buehler Sesquicentennial Assistant Professor in the department of counseling, developmental, and educational psychology in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development (LSEHD), was honored with the Distinguished Early Career Professional Contributions to Media Psychology and Technology Award, the Emerging Professional Contributions to Research Award, and the 2023 Fritz and Linn Kuder Early Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Counseling Psychology.
All three awards are presented by the APA to an individual who makes significant contributions to their respective fields in their first 10 postdoctoral years.
At Boston College, Keum said he studies how to prevent discrimination on online platforms. As the lab director of the digital equity and anti-oppression lab in LSEHD, Keum said he is working to design education methods that will help the next generation of computer programmers create culturally inclusive social media platforms.
“We are really trying to empower these students and how they can take this infusion with cultural competence and move forward,” Keum said.
Keum said growing up in a low-income, Korean immigrant family, he never thought a career path in psychology was an option.
“I never thought that I would be in psychology because when I was growing up, psychology was not a thing in my community,” Keum said. “Growing up in a low-income, Korean immigrant community, it was not something that was normalized or seen as acceptable.”
Stanton E.F. Wortham, the Charles F. Donovan, S.J., Dean of LSEHD, said Keum’s unique background explains why he is so empathetic with his work.
“He has personal experience as an immigrant, so he knows what it’s like to not be exactly mainstream,” Wortham said. … “He understands that some of the folks that counseling psychologists are trying to work with and support have these different experiences like he did or the people he knew when he was growing up.”
Wortham emphasized how Keum’s prior experience and expertise align well with the counseling program in the counseling, developmental, and educational psychology department (CDEP) in LSEHD. According to Wortham, the CDEP has a strong emphasis on the experiences of people from various backgrounds, including immigrants, minorities, and LGBTQ+ individuals.
“We have a lot of faculty expertise in how you provide counseling and mental health support for people who the society doesn’t always treat fairly,” Wortham said. “[Keum] fits right in with the colleagues who are interested in doing that.”
Wortham also praised Keum’s humility when working with vulnerable populations.
“I found him to be someone who really cares about and has empathy with folks who have had to struggle and fight through those sorts of circumstances,” Wortham said.
Keum expressed that by winning these awards, he hopes to inspire students of Korean descent to pursue psychology.
“[One of my students] came into my office hours and told me, ‘I went to Boston College for undergrad and all throughout my life, I have never seen a Korean male professor in my classes and so just seeing you is refreshing and empowering,’” Keum said.
Keum said inspiring students like this is the reason he is so passionate about his research and studies.
“I think those kinds of experiences really represent the reason why I am so passionate about studying these issues and the fact that I am able to get recognized for doing that just goes to show that there’s a lot more work to be done,” he said.