An avid runner, this professor in the kinesiology and nutrition sciences department has a love-love relationship with marathons and travel — she will register for races in states she hasn’t yet visited.
My research and academic background have an interdisciplinary focus in the nutrition and exercise sciences. I searched for a university with a strong nutrition sciences program that also offered opportunities in exercise physiology. UNLV has both. As I learned more about the university, I felt like I could contribute to the Top Tier goal and add to the successes of the nutrition sciences program. I couldn’t have dreamt up a better scenario.
Where did you grow up?
I am originally from Commerce Township in Michigan, which is a suburb of Detroit.
What’s the biggest misconception about your field?
Many people think that nutrition is simply about eating healthy food. In reality, nutrition is very science-based. As professionals, we study how our bodies use the food we eat, and how the nutrients in that food affect our health.
What’s the biggest challenge in your field?
There are two big challenges in the nutrition field. As nutrition professionals, we constantly compete against headlines, fad diets, myths, and misconceptions. Unlike many self-proclaimed nutrition experts, our work is rooted in science and provides the most up-to-date information about how to use food to maintain good health.
The other challenge we face is that nutrition is a young, evolving science and there are still things we don’t know. We are discovering new facts about food and nutrition all the time. It’s challenging, but also an exciting time to be part of this field.
What inspired you to get into your field?
I have been interested in health and the science of health for much of my life. I played many sports growing up and paid attention to what food helped me most during a game, which became a bigger interest when I played basketball in college (at Florida Atlantic University). Even though I was a finance major, I took as many nutrition–based general education classes as possible. After college, I was given the opportunity to start my graduate work while coaching college basketball. I met many people who nurtured my interest along the way, and now I have an exciting career.
Proudest moment in your life?
One of the proudest moments in my life was when I received a full scholarship to play basketball for a Division I school. I was the first person from my high school who had ever done this and my signing received a lot of local media attention.
One tip for success?
My tip for success is find your passion, do what you love, and surround yourself with a network of supportive people. If you love what you are doing, success comes easier. And you need that network. You can succeed on your own, but it will be tougher to achieve.
If you could fix one thing in the world, what would it be?
Staying within my scope of practice, I would figure out how to bridge the gap between what we know to be true in the lab regarding risk reduction for chronic disease and what people will actually adopt in a real-world setting.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I have a goal to run a marathon in all 50 states in under four hours, before I am 50 years old.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
I have two inspiring mentors — Shala Davis at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania and Carol Johnson at Arizona State University. Both were mentors during graduate school.
Shala inspired me to get into this profession. She has an energy I had never experienced in an academic setting, and a unique ability to demand the best from her students without ever seeming demanding. As an educator, I strive to emulate her.
Carol is similar. She is well respected by students, incredibly encouraging, and yet demanding. She brought out the best work in me and inspired me to follow my passion. Both women were instrumental in my path to becoming an educator and a researcher.
What are your pastimes or hobbies?
I love running, traveling, and learning about wine. Last year, I ran a marathon in Napa Valley (California), which was the perfect combination of all of my favorite hobbies.