Amy Morgan earned her PhD in human development in the marriage and family therapy program in the Virginia Tech Department of Human Development and Family Science in May 2020. Her dissertation, “The Mediating Effects of Family Resilience Processes in the Context of Paternal Incarceration: A Structural-Equation Analysis of the Family Inequality Framework among Danish Families with School-Aged Youth,” chaired by Professor Joyce Arditti, was the culmination of Morgan’s research on the health, wellbeing, and resilience of families experiencing parental incarceration.

Morgan is joining the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health as an assistant professor. There she will teach, supervise students, and conduct research. She is also heavily involved in policy work, advancing research that explores mental health care policy and serving as a statewide legislative policy leader for such organizations as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the National Council for Behavioral Health.

What stands out for you when you reflect on your journey through the PhD program?
The highlights of the doctoral program were opportunities for diverse experiences across research and teaching; learning from faculty mentors, especially Joyce Arditti, Ashley Landers, Jeff Jackson, and Erika Grafsky; and bonding with other students.

What’s next for you?
I’ve just started my new position as assistant professor of couple and family therapy at the University of Maryland. A few key experiences helped me obtain this position: my research agenda and experiences focused on family resilience and wellness; the internship I completed my final year as a visiting instructor and supervisor at Virginia Tech’s master’s program in marriage and family therapy; my teacher training and experience; my clinical experience; and my being well prepared for the interview day.

What will you be doing in your new position?
My goals are to advance my research program of family health and resilience during parental incarceration, continue family and mental health policy work, and mentor rising students as they begin their own research and careers. In my role as assistant professor, I’ll teach undergraduate and graduate courses, supervise practicums, advise couple and family therapy students, and advance my research. This fall, I’ll be teaching an undergraduate course titled, “Family Theories and Patterns.” In the spring, I’ll be teaching “Research Methods” to graduate students. I’m also looking forward to collaborating with some faculty on a few research projects.

What is the best part about your job?
I’ve just barely started but already I am so impressed with the faculty, department, and university. The resources available to me as faculty are incredible. For example, I’ve already participated in a few excellent workshops on teaching during COVID-19 (we’re online this fall). Also, I’ve been invited to participate in a program called ADVANCE, which supports the advancement of women and underrepresented minority faculty at the University of Maryland. The department faculty and staff are so welcoming and helpful, and the department has a very collegial environment. I also appreciate how the university at-large is intentional about recognizing and addressing the needs of racial, ethnic, sexual, gender, and economic minorities. I’m excited to be joining such a great department and university.

How did Virginia Tech prepare you for your career?
Virginia Tech prepared me through teacher training, supervision, and experience; by allowing me to intern at a master’s program, which gave me experience teaching and supervising master’s students in a clinical context; and through faculty mentorship. I learned so much from Dr. Arditti about parental incarceration research and writing for publication. She has introduced me to prolific researchers around the world, and I am so grateful for her mentorship. Dr. Landers is also an excellent mentor and taught me how to strategically plan a program of research. Both she and Dr. Jackson prepared me immensely for the job market and interviewing.

What advice do you have for current graduate students in the Department of Human Development and Family Science?
Spend this time figuring out what you want your career to look like and seek experiences that align you for that. Don’t get caught up in publications and grants if academia is not your career goal. Even if it is your goal, choose wisely how you spend your time. You don’t have to spend this time as a graduate student being mini-faculty; use this time to explore your interests, advance skills, and find people with whom you work well. Find faculty mentors who are both empathic and challenging. Graduate school is hard, and having a life outside of academia is important. Set work–home boundaries and advocate for them, make friends in and outside the department, and make time for what is important to you both in and outside of graduate school.

Interview by Krista Hein

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The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Staff Association awarded its annual scholarship to Amy Morgan in 2018. Video by Leslie King