I enjoy being an Assistant Professor of Nutrition at Appalachian State University, and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). I received my M.S. in dietetics from the University of Central Arkansas in 2004, and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in behavioral and community nutrition in 2015. My research and teaching focus on community nutrition and programming, and while the majority of my research is based locally, my family of four and I travel to Madagascar for global research projects every few years. I enjoy mentoring undergraduate and graduate students in community research projects locally and globally.
In the Spring of 2018, working with the Academic Civic Engagement Office, I established NUT 4560 Community Nutrition as a designated service-learning course, requiring students to be involved with the local community in a tangible way. Currently, students must complete 10 hours of “service” at a community organization or site that has nutrition as part of their activities. I believe this is an important requirement for this course. Service learning enriches educational experiences by integrating meaningful community service with instruction and reflection, recognizing that not all learning happens in the classroom. It helps to strengthen civic engagement and broaden awareness of issues that communities face in meeting nutritional needs. Often, students will volunteer well beyond their required hours for the course, and provide reasons such as a feeling of fulfillment and community connectedness. These experiences have also very often been mutually beneficial in tangible ways by extending into internships for students.
Service learning sites/partnerships for the students were established by contacting and visiting with various community organizations including: Hunger and Health Coalition, Girl Scouts, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, Senior Center, Cooperative Extension, Hospitality House, Sustainable Development Farm, AppalFRESH, F.A.R.M. Café and Full Circle, AppFuel, East Hall Food Pantry, Second Harvest, and others. These valuable sites place Community Nutrition students all over Watauga County, assisting in nutrition education and service, while participating in civic engagement. They provide various types of service to the community - making meals or snacks, developing education materials, providing education, stocking and organizing food pantries, collecting data for sites, creating healthy recipes, delivering meals, and many other tasks that fill a community need.