Dr. Luke T. Russell, HDFS Alumni Spotlight, February 2022

BA ’10 HDFS and Political Science

Luke RussellLuke T. Russell attended UConn from 2006-2010. He entered the University initially as a political science major, with an interest in international relationships and the process of brokering peace between nations. On the advice of a friend, he took a course during his sophomore year on family dynamics taught by then department head Dr. Ron Sabatelli. Fascinated by the theoretical insights of family systems theory and the practical bend of Human Development and Family Studies, Luke added HDFS as a second major, and subsequently completed an honors thesis in HDFS. As an honors student, Luke took a graduate seminar on Divorce, Remarriage, and Stepfamilies taught by Dr. Shannon Weaver, which drew him into the study of brokering peace within divorced and separated households. Under the mentorship of Dr. Weaver, he received research support from the Summer Undergraduate Research Fund Gary Karp Award to complete a grounded theory study with emerging adult stepchildren about how they built, formed, and experienced meaningful relationships with their stepparents. Largely because of this experience, he went on to complete both an MS and PhD in Human Development and Family Science at the University of Missouri.

Since 2018, Luke has been an assistant professor of Human Development and Family Science at Illinois State University, where he has received both a University Teaching Initiative Award and University Research Initiative Award for his accomplishments in the classroom and broader publication record as a pre-tenure faculty member. In his research he continues to investigate how individuals living in diverse family structures (e.g., post-divorce families, remarried/stepfamilies, cohabiting families, single-parent families, etc.) organize their relationships, engage in strategies that promote resilience, and maintain family-members’ health and well-being. He also studies how broader social institutions (e.g., health care systems, schools, and government agencies) can function as supportive resources for individuals living in structurally diverse families. He currently serves on five editorial boards: Journal of Family Theory & Review, Journal of Family Nursing, Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Science, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, and Personal Relationships; is a founding member of the Divorce Education Assessment Collaborative based out of Kansas State University, and in 2021 gained full certification as a Certified Family Life Educator. At Illinois State University he teaches courses in communication and helping skills, family policy, families in later life, and enduring issues for couples and families. His work both in the classroom and outside of it has been (and continues to be) greatly shaped by his experiences as an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut.

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