What began as a student membership in the National Council on Family Relations has turned, over the decades, into a leadership position for Anisa Zvonkovic, head of the Department of Human Development and Family Science at Virginia Tech. At the council’s annual national conference, recently held in Orlando, Florida, she began her two-year term as president of the council’s Board of Directors.
Zvonkovic joined the organization in 1982, during her first year of graduate school. After studying social psychology in college, she knew she wanted to enter a field in which her research results could enhance daily life. With the council’s focus on family research to help people succeed in everyday life, she felt she had found her place.
“I remember going to the meetings and just being in awe of everybody,” Zvonkovic said. “The National Council on Family Relations really nurtured my career.”
The council is the country’s oldest professional, nonpartisan association focusing on family research, practice, and education. Its international membership is multidisciplinary, ranging from university faculty and researchers to therapists, social workers, and K–12 teachers.
“Over 75 percent of our members are affiliated with a university in some way, so Dr. Zvonkovic’s academic administrative leadership experience is highly valued in her role as president,” said Diane Cushman, executive director of the council. “We’re particularly excited about her interest in advancing the discipline of family science so that the base of knowledge that has been developed over the past 80 years is accessible to all families and those whose work affects families, such as family law attorneys, family physicians, and policymakers.”
A Virginia Tech faculty member since 2011, Zvonkovic focuses her research on the effects of contextual demands, such as paid employment, on individual health and family well-being. With a $1.5 million grant she received from the National Institutes of Health in 2015, for example, she conducted research on a range of work-related travel topics, including division of household labor, daily diet and sleep habits, and parenting responsibilities.
Zvonkovic has published widely, with research appearing in such publications as the Journal of Marriage and Family; Family Relations; the Journal of Family Issues; Work, Employment and Society; the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships; and Sex Roles.
Before joining Virginia Tech, Zvonkovic was a professor and chair of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Texas Tech University. She also served on the faculty at Oregon State University. She earned her doctorate at Pennsylvania State University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia.
Throughout her career, she has played a role in the National Council on Family Relations. As part of her recent service, she and two colleagues guest-edited a special issue of the council’s journal Family Relations. She said the goal of the issue, which dealt with sexual assault on college campuses, was to show how research could help those dealing with the repercussions of Title IX violations.
Zvonkovic said the council produces the journals to build a repository of published research that can help guide policy decisions. The council also helps legislators and other decision-makers understand how policies affect families.
“It’s important,” Zvonkovic says, “that the field of family science has a place at the table when family-related policies and programs are designed and implemented.”
Written by Leslie King