Developmental Doctoral Student Spotlight

riley Tennisha Riley

Developmental Psychology Doctoral Student
Faculty adviser: Zewelanji Serpell, Ph.D.

  • B.S. Psychology; Florida State University
  • M.A. Clinical and Counseling Psychology - Marriage and Family Therapy; LaSalle University
  • M.S. Developmental Psychology; Virginia Commonwealth University

Awards and Grants

  • 2017, Dissertation Assistantship Award, VCU Graduate School
  • 2017, John P. Hill Award for Adolescent Research, VCU Department of Psychology
  • 2017, Outstanding Developmental Psychology Graduate Student Award, VCU Department of Psychology
  • 2017, Underrepresented Student Workshop Travel Award to Curran and Bauer Multilevel Modeling Workshop, Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology
  • 2017, Three Minute Thesis (3MT ®) competition 2nd place winner for Chess Training and Positive Behavior and Social Skills, VCU Graduate School
  • 2015, Millenium Scholar, Society for Research in Child Development
  • 2015, International Research Graduate Student Award, VCU Department of Psychology
  • 2015, International Research Travel Award, VCU Global Education Office

What are your research interests?

I am primarily interested in examining the social context of adolescents. My research interests take an integrative affective-cognitive-social approach to examining adolescent development. Specifically, I am interested in how adolescents use expression of emotion, and the regulation of emotion in making decisions when they are with their friends. More recently I have become interested in understanding how culture may play a role in the social and emotional development of African American adolescents.

What would you tell prospective students about VCU's developmental psychology program?

I really enjoy the personalization of the developmental program. The faculty make every attempt to provide experiences that align with your career and research goals, yet push you toward challenges. Every course I have taken, every award and grant I have applied for, every manuscript written and every service opportunity have been supported by the faculty in the program in a way that aligns with my specific goals.

Tell us about the Black Graduate Student Association and your current role in the organization.

I currently serve as the president of the Black Graduate Student Association on campus. The National Black Graduate Student Association was established more than 20 years ago with affiliations on campuses across the U.S. VCU had an established BGSA affiliation at one time, so Ashley Hill, a doctoral student in the counseling psychology doctoral program, and I decided that after more than five years of inactivity, it was time for redevelopment. We met with students in VCU's interdisciplinary doctoral program in Media, Art and Text and began work to create a space in the VCU community for black graduate students to meet and work collaboratively toward their academic and personal goals. We have been overwhelmed by the support from our BGSA family and allies who have made the commitment to work toward inclusivity and diversity both in academia and the larger community.

Our initiatives align with organization's national goal and mission: The BGSA at VCU is an inclusive organization that seeks to provide a support and collaborative environment for students of African descent. We also aim to increase the university’s awareness and responsiveness to the professional and academic needs of black graduate and professional students.

What are some other highlights from your graduate studies at VCU you'd like to share?

During my graduate studies I have had the pleasure of working on a collaborative research project at the University of Cambridge, and I also visited Zambia for research and service-learning over two summers. I look forward to continuing research collaborations and partnerships with international scholars in the future.