Tennisha Riley


Graduate Student
Developmental Program

Faculty Adviser

Zewelanji Serpell, Ph.D.

I received my bachelor's degree in psychology from Florida State University and a master's degree in clinical and counseling psychology (marriage and family therapy) from LaSalle University. I completed my second master's degree in developmental psychology at VCU. 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.

I also serve as president of the VCU Black Graduate Student Association, 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. 

Select Publications

Kliewer, W., Riley, T., Zaharakis, N., Borre, A., Drazdowski, T. K., & Jäggi, L. (2016). Emotion dysregulation, anticipatory cortisol, and substance use in urban adolescents. Personality and Individual Differences, 99, 200-205.
Riley, T., Foster, A., & Serpell, Z. (2015). Race-based stereotypes, expectations, and exclusion in American education. In L.D. Drakeford (Ed.), The race controversy in American education [2 volumes], (pp.169-189). Santa Barbara, California: Praeger.
Audrain-McGovern, J., Rodriguez, D., Rodgers, K., Cuevas, J., Sass, J., & Riley, T. (2012). Reward expectations lead to smoking uptake among depressed adolescents. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 120, 181-189.


  • 2017, American Psychological Association Dissertation Research Award 
  • 2017, Dissertation Funding Award, Society for Research in Child Development
  • 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

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