Kali Trzesniewski

Position Title
Associate Director of Research for the Statewide 4-H Youth Development Program and Professor of Extension


I’m Kali Trzesniewski. I am a specialist in cooperative extension and the associate director of research for the California 4-H youth development program. I got my B.S. in Human Development here at Davis, followed by a master’s here, and finally my Ph.D. from Psychology also here at UC Davis.

My educational route was not direct, however. I started school as a math major, but struggled a lot and ended up failing out. After working for several years, I found my passion in developmental psychology and couldn’t be happier. In high school, Davis was the only school I wanted to go to. I have left twice (once after failing out during undergrad and once after finishing my PhD). Each time, I knew that I wanted Davis to be my long term home. I chose developmental psychology, because when deciding to go back to school, I was watching day time TV and saw a talk show interviewing teenage mothers who were sharing their hard lives and the troubles they had as children. I decided I would rather spend time trying to prevent people from living those hard lives, instead of trying to fix the problems after. So, my research is focused on helping youth reach their full potential and grow up to be healthy, happy, caring adults. I do this through conducting interventions in schools and research in the lab to inform the development of interventions. My goal as a faculty member is to help graduate students find their own passion and support them on their path to developing that passion into a career.

Research Interests 
I am a social-developmental psychologist interested in understanding how personality and social factors influence a person’s developmental course from conception to death. I am interested in understanding how to raise children to grow up to be healthy, productive members of society; including, finding supportive relationships and having a family, supporting themselves and their family, and not bringing harm to others. More specifically, I study the role that self-perceptions, such as growth mindset and self-esteem, play in fostering thriving lives throughout the life span, and how best to impact these self-perceptions in the U.S. and in developing countries.


Kali Trzesniewski: consultant on the film, “Soul” (2020) Pixar Studios. https://twitter.com/KaliTJames/status/1343285989674926080?s=20