Meet KPU: Kyle Matsuba

Matsuba is the co-chair of KPU’s psychology department and has dedicated much of his life to improving the mental health of youth in northern Uganda

Kyle Matsuba is the co-chair of KPU's psychology department and works with youth in northern Uganda. (submitted)

Kyle Matsuba is the co-chair of KPU’s psychology department and works with youth in northern Uganda. (submitted)

Dr. Kyle Matsuba is a faculty member and co-chair of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s psychology department. Matsuba has been a part of the KPU community for over a decade and his research has focused on the moral personality and identity of individuals. He’s spent multiple years in northern Uganda implementing and evaluating mindfulness and social-emotional learning programs.

Matsuba has also studied the lives of at-risk children and the changes in well-being with participation in intervention programs. Over the years, he’s delved into the social contexts of youth living in urban poverty and its associated behavioural impacts. He’s community driven and likes to give back and support people in any way he can.

He has a bachelor of science from the University of Toronto, and a bachelor of arts, master of arts, and Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia. Matsuba has taught various psychology courses at KPU, like PSYC 2320, developmental psychology with a focus on childhood, and PSYC 3316 which explores research trends and theoretical perspectives on infant development. He also supervises honours students. 

Matsuba has been involved in numerous scholarly works. He’s co-authored three books, 12 journals, and runs the Matsuba Applied Development (MAD) Lab, a student-centred research lab where KPU students conduct and present research pertaining to real-life issues from a psychological perspective.


When did you join the KPU community, and why?

I joined the KPU community in 2009 in the fall. In academia it’s rare to find a job in a city where you want to live. My last position before KPU was in St. Louis, Missouri, but I had heard about Kwantlen, in large part because the department of psychology is known to be quite innovative. 

At the time, they had an undergraduate conference called Connecting Minds. For each conference they hosted, they also had a teaching psychology conference that one of my colleagues used to organize. They had a newsletter called Synapse, featuring all the things going on in the department. Within the B.C. community of universities and colleges, Kwantlen was known for all these cool things that they were doing and that attracted me to the institution. I grew up in Vancouver and I had always wanted to come back home for family reasons. So, when an opportunity arose, I was very excited. 


What’s your favourite memory of your time at KPU?

One I continue to come back to is a retirement party that was given to one of my colleagues, Betsy Spaulding, a faculty member in psychology. It was memorable because it was fun and we all got together as a department. I’ve been in a number of departments and often it can be quite tense and fractious, but our psychology department is not. We’re very collegial. We argue passionately about what we believe in, but we all get along well. This was an opportunity for us all to get together and celebrate one of our colleagues who’s retiring. It was cool that we were working together as a group and reminded me just how well we get along together. 

We also had students there and they spoke very glowingly about Betsy. It reminded me of the impact that my colleagues have on student lives and that was exciting. We also had administrators there to speak to the way that Betsy had helped the department grow. We also organized her tap dancing group to come in and perform a surprise dance for her. The tap dancing part was a good reminder to me that my colleagues have other interests outside of work that they’re involved in and that they contribute to.


What’s something you’d like to say to people new to the KPU community?

What I love about KPU is that it’s filled with opportunities, and these are opportunities for the taking. So, if you’re a little bit interested, curious, active, it’s easy to find those opportunities and take advantage of those opportunities. Whether it’s getting involved in organizations, research, social activism, there are people that are doing wonderful things and it’s always amazing to me that there are so many things that are going on. 

People here are very collegial, and they would love support and help in doing these things. Whether it’s going abroad as a faculty member or as a student internationally, getting involved in the projects going on in your local community, or within Kwantlen, there are these opportunities. If you can do a little bit of searching, you’ll find them, and people are very helpful in supporting you in all these activities.


What are you working on right now?

I admit I am a bit of a workaholic. But what I like about my job and psychology specifically is that often the work and personal development blend together. I have a research project that takes place in northern Uganda, called Wang Oo Relit Project. It’s designed to improve the mental health of youth in northern Uganda, which is a post-conflict zone. We’re working with Grand Challenges Canada through funding to develop a program called “By Youth for Youth” to try and create more resiliency and positivity. 

Part of it also integrates mindfulness, so it’s really helping people deal with many of the stressors they face in a challenging environment. I’ve been involved in mindfulness research for a while in Uganda — about 12 years. I’ve worked with a number of organizations. I began working with the Goldie Hawn Foundation and adapting their MindUP Program, which has been implemented in the Lower Mainland and into the northern Ugandan school context. But part of it is also learning about mindfulness programs. I did research on mindfulness and realized its benefits, so not only am I trying to create programs around mindfulness but I also practice mindfulness and that has made a tremendous and surprising impact on improving my mental health. 


What’s something you’d like people to know about you?

I like being active in the community, so I try to get involved as much as I can. In the past, I helped out with the Vancouver Aquarium, doing some program evaluation work for them. I’ve also worked with the Health Initiative For Men (HIM) and the Persons With AIDS Society in Vancouver, working with the people that attend their drop-in sessions. 

For the past five years or so, I have been sponsoring some kids in Uganda and working with them to help with their education and provide support wherever I can. So, those are the things I like to be involved in and I like to give back and contribute in that way.