“You can learn amazing things about people if you simply listen and watch,” says Chalandra Bryant, a professor in the Department of Family Social Science. “Consequently, I am always observing people.”
Watching and listening comes in handy with her research, as Bryant studies relationships. “I’m interested in how people form and maintain close ties,” she says. “I do that with a focus on context—the context in which those relationships are embedded.”
She is especially interested in how stressors impact human behavior and emotions, with a particular focus on ambiguous loss. Ambiguous loss refers to a type of loss where an emotional closure is unlikely. The term was coined by Family Social Science Professor Emeritus Pauline Boss, who studied the phenomenon for many years. It’s only fitting, then, that Bryant holds the Pauline Boss Faculty Fellowship at CEHD.
The goal of the fund is to support continued research and teaching about ambiguous loss and creating a legacy of support for this important theory. “I have always wanted the opportunity to develop different ways of assessing ambiguous loss,” Bryant says. “This fellowship provides me with an opportunity to meet with and talk with Dr. Boss on a regular basis about my work. I have been able to incorporate ambiguous loss in studies that I’m conducting.”
Bryant was a professor at the University of Georgia when she first met Boss, who came down to present her work. “We discovered that we share an interest in studying family stress,” Bryant says. “We kept in touch and one day I received a call from her asking if I would like to co-author the third edition of the book, Family Stress Management: A Contextual Approach. Of course, I said ‘Yes!’”
Since 2020, Bryant has been at CEHD, closer to Boss both professionally and personally. “Dr. Boss is more than a colleague. She is more than a mentor,” she says. “She has met my husband, my sister, and even my parents. She regularly asks me how they are doing, and they regularly ask me how she’s doing. That is a heartfelt reminder that there is a human aspect to our professional relationship, which is also a deep friendship.”
Bryant says fellowships such as hers are incredibly important, for both the receiver and the donors. “I have had the honor of meeting a few donors,” she says. “They graciously shared their reasons for giving back,” she says. “Their experiences are so moving, so poignant.” It’s as Bryant says: You can learn amazing things about people if you simply listen and watch.