Educating people about mental illness, and reducing the stigma associated with it, is something Stephanie RiCharde has made her life’s work.
RiCharde, who is joining Randolph’s psychology department as a visiting assistant professor this fall, has worked as a mental health counselor and in emergency mental health, a job that required her to collaborate closely with law enforcement, the legal system, and emergency department staff.
“No one is immune from mental illness, yet it has been a taboo subject,” she said. “I talk about this subject in every course I teach, to varying degrees. I want to help my students evaluate their own stigmatizing attitudes toward various mental illnesses and help them to engage with friends and family on the subject. The more we talk about this topic in a nonjudgmental way, the more we normalize the subject, increase empathy, and promote understanding.”
As a founding member of the Rockbridge-Bath Crisis Intervention Team, she also trained first responders about mental illness and how to effectively respond during mental health emergencies.
When she left full-time clinical work, RiCharde chose a doctoral program in international psychology, with a concentration in trauma.
“I think it is valuable to study psychological phenomena through non-Western lenses and my clinical background gave me a good foundation to learn more about trauma on an international scale.”
At Randolph, she’s teaching three courses this fall, including the Psychology of Trauma and the Biopsychology of Addiction.
Here is more of what she had to say about her passion for helping others and how she’ll bring that to Randolph:
How did you first become interested in psychology?
“I had no idea what I wanted to do when I went to college. In my second year, I was told I wasn’t allowed to take more psychology classes unless I declared it as my major, so I thought that was a good sign and went ahead and declared. There are so many avenues in psychology, and narrowing it down was difficult. I debated between industrial-organizational psychology and clinical psychology, and clinical won out, as I thought I would feel more helpful in that field. After completing my masters in clinical psych, I worked as a mental health counselor for several years before concluding that full time clinical work was not sustainable for me as a career, so I went back to school.”
What attracted you to the job at Randolph?
“I have enjoyed teaching at small liberal arts colleges in the past. I want to have opportunities to really get to know my colleagues and students, and so teaching at a large school does not appeal to me much. I was born and raised an hour from Lynchburg, and I am happy to be able to work in and engage with my local and regional communities. Further, I am drawn to the strong sense of community at Randolph. And it also doesn’t hurt that Randolph has such a beautiful campus.”
Describe your teaching style. What can students expect in your classes?
“For Intro Psych, I try to offer a balance of lecture, class discussions, and activities (individual, group, and as a whole class). More advanced classes are often reading and discussion intensive. I very much like to sit in a circle and discuss topics with my students after we have all read and prepared for that discussion.”
What are your initial impressions of Randolph and its students?
“I taught at Randolph as an adjunct last school year, and I could tell that the psychology majors at Randolph are very much interested and engaged in their courses of study. I assume that each department enjoys that type of enthusiasm.”
What do you like to do outside of the classroom as far as hobbies or other activities?
“I have always been a big traveler, though the pandemic has nearly halted that. I enjoy being outside and spending time with friends and family. In the summer, I spend a lot of time at the river, often with friends.”