TeKisha Rice completed her Ph.D. in human development and family studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her program of research examines romantic relationship dynamics and well-being within a macro-social context.

Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Rice was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and held a research associate position in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Purdue University. Rice received the 2020 Steve Duck New Scholar Award from the International Association of Relationship Research and the 2020 Best Student Paper Award from the REDF Section of the National Council on Family Relations. Her students and mentees describe her as engaging and relatable.

What is your background?
I am originally from Alabama, where I completed my undergraduate degree in human development and family studies at Auburn University (War Eagle!). My experiences there led me to graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I completed my master’s degree and doctorate.

What are your research interests and why are you passionate about this them?
Broadly my research focuses on romantic relationship dynamics and their links with personal well-being.  As an undergrad, I completed an internship as a family life educator in which I facilitated a number of family life educator curricula to diverse populations, including recovering addicts, individuals recently released from prisons, low-income and under-resourced families, and minoritized individuals and families. During that internship I heard firsthand how social stressors like racism and their perpetuation over time within the social climate and institutions — or what I refer to as the macro-social context — impacted peoples’ view of themselves and their capacity for maintaining satisfying relationships with their families and especially their romantic partners.

Since then, I’ve maintained an interest in understanding how the broader social context can impact experiences within relationships and how couples thrive in the face of social stressors.

What would you like the public to know about your research? Why is it important?
Relationships are actually important contributors to quality-of-life and health outcomes. Interpersonal relationships can affect individual health outcomes more than other widely recognized determinants of health like smoking and physical activity! Because the broader social context in which people live can also affect quality it’s important to understand how couples navigate those stressors together and what implications those stressors might have for people’s well-being.

My goal is to emphasize how those noticeable, yet less tangible aspects of the social environment impact relational and individual functioning, partly to demonstrate just how far-reaching the effects of the social environment are in daily life, but also to identify strategies for promoting resilience and effective coping among individuals in relationships.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role at Virginia Tech?
I am really looking forward to working with students! They often challenge the ways we have been framing and interpreting research and are essential to advancing knowledge.

What goals do you hope to accomplish in your first couple of years in the department?
Establishing collaborations and a strong professional network is such an important aspect of academia so I hope to have connected with colleagues within and beyond Virginia Tech. I plan to continue the work I started in graduate school but also look forward to applying for grants that will help me launch my research program. To that end, I am also hoping to build good mentoring relationships with undergraduate and graduate students!

What is your favorite part about mentoring students?
Watching them bloom into confident and independent scholars and practitioners! It is so rewarding to see students accomplishing personal and professional goals. I am always looking for ways to celebrate my mentees!

How do you like to spend your free time?
I spend a lot of my free time napping, catching up with family and friends, and walking my eight-year old dog, JoJo. I am quite the homebody, and JoJo loves when I snuggle up with her all day! Outside of being a couch potato, I am a proud plant parent (you can pop by my office to see a few of them!) and really enjoy being outdoors. Whether that’s a casual walk or more intense hike, I find a deep sense of peace when spending time in nature.

What is the most helpful advice you have received?
Other than believing in yourself, I would say that the best advice I’ve gotten was to know your priorities and treat them as such while recognizing that priorities shift. At some point you might have to buckle down and “make it happen” as a mentor would say to me. Other times you might need to step away and give yourself some grace (guilt-free and unapologetically). Ultimately, you have to know why something is important to you and hold yourself accountable for accomplishing any goals. The goal is progress, not perfection.

Interview by Casey McGregor