Alumni Awards and Honors
Recent Alumnus, Academia: Jeremy Akers (Ph.D. ’10)
Upon completing his doctoral program from HNFE, Jeremy accepted an assistant professor role with the Department of Health Professions at James Madison University. At JMU, he also serves as the program director for the master’s degree in health professions and the graduate program director for dietetics. Jeremy’s research includes nutrition and exercise interventions for weight management and chronic disease, behavioral theories in weight management, and nutrition manipulation and sport performance. He is committed to training students in nutrition and physical activity and teaches multiple graduate and undergraduate nutrition courses.
Recent Alumnus, Government and Industry: Timothy Brown (B.S. ’10)
After graduating from Virginia Tech, Tim attended the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine and then completed his internal medicine residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He is currently serving as chief resident in quality improvement and research for the residency program at UTSW. Tim was drawn to the university for the opportunity to serve the area’s underserved populations and to work with cutting-edge medical research. He is pursuing fellowship opportunities in hematology and oncology with a specific interest in investigating novel therapies for acute leukemias. In addition to his successful medical career, Tim is a productive scientist, evidenced by numerous peer-reviewed publications, presentations, abstracts, institutional lectures, and invited talks.
David Brown (B.S. '99) was an associate professor in HNFE from 2016-2019, where he directed a laboratory that combined disciplines in cardiac physiology and mitochondrial biology. His lab used approaches in intact hearts, isolated cardiac myocytes, permeabilized ventricular fibers, and isolated mitochondria to gain multi-level insight into cardiac physiology in health and disease. His work has been well received in the scientific community, reflected by numerous extramural grants, a consistent publication history, and several scientific awards. In addition to his own research initiatives, David successfully mentored his students in grantsmanship, evidenced by their fellowships from organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Physiological Society.
Recent Graduate Alumna
Elizabeth Parker (B.S. '06, Ph.D. '10) is currently an assistant professor at the Center for Integrated Medicine with the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Her research focuses on evaluating dietary and exercise interventions to prevent obesity among adults and low-income urban youth; she is primarily interested in non-pharmacologic interventions that improve health and chronic disease related outcomes. In 2016, Liz was recognized by the Maryland Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as the Young Dietitian of the Year and by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as the Research Dietetic Practice Group Member of the Year. She is active in several professional societies, including the American Society of Nutrition and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
HNFE & CALS Outstanding Recent Undergraduate Alumna
As Virginia Tech’s associate athletics director of sports nutrition, Jennie Zabinsky (B.S. '09, M.A.Ed. '13) has developed a creative staffing model that has allowed a broad number of professionals to gain experience and mentoring through graduate assistantships and corporate partnerships. Her work on behalf of all student athletes has far-reaching implications from current students balancing academics and athletics, to alumni moving out of rigorous athletics and learning how to navigate food choices without intense activity. Jennie’s Student Sports Nutrition initiative provides paid and volunteer work experiences for undergraduate and graduate HNFE students. As a result, hundreds of our students have used these experiences to secure jobs, internships, and graduate school acceptances. In addition, Jennie guest lectures, serves on graduate student and search committees, and helps develop curriculum in HNFE. Jennie is a respected leader within the sports nutrition community and professional organizations, and her commitment to Ut Prosim has had a significant impact on the department and the dietetics profession.
A registered dietitian, Alicia White (M.S. ' 97) has 20 years of experience in community and public health nutrition at national, state, and local levels. In her current role as the branch chief with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, she leads the development of innovative nutrition education materials under the USDA's Team Nutrition initiative, which provides nutrition education and training materials to schools and child care providers participating in child nutrition programs. These tools are utilized within nutrition assistance programs such as EFNEP, SNAP‐Ed, WIC, Head Start, summer food service programs, and school nutrition, potentially reaching millions of Americans each year. Many of these resources are utilized within the Virginia Family Nutrition Program. She also represents the organization at a wide range of national meetings and conferences. Alicia describes herself as "an energetic leader experienced in working with diverse teams to develop innovative nutrition education resources and initiatives that resonate with children and families."
Recent Graduate Alumna
Carmen Byker Shanks (B.S. / M.S. '09; Ph.D. '11) is an assistant professor of food and nutrition and sustainable food systems at Montana State University. She is also a registered dietitian nutritionist. At MSU, she leads the Human Nutrition and Behavior Group of the Food and Health Laboratory. Her research focuses on measuring and implementing policies, programs, and practices in diverse contexts that promote high dietary quality and reduce obesity and chronic disease in three applied areas: school food environment, consumer food environment, and food assistance programs. Her overall goal is to address society’s most pressing issues of feeding communities with nutritious foods by developing specific strategies that facilitate dietary change and positive health outcomes.
Recent Undergraduate Alumni
Jordan Chang (B.S. '09) is a clinic director with University Physical Therapy in Giles County, Virginia, and has been instrumental in improving health outcomes in an underserved community. He is actively involved with HNFE as guest lecturer and as a student field study supervisor and mentor; students give him excellent evaluations as someone who involved them and who made learning exciting. Jordan also serves as a physical therapist for Virginia Tech Athletics, where he trains and mentors students, many of whom have successfully moved on to medical school and advanced degree programs in athletic training and physical therapy. In addition, Jordan is a sports medicine consultant for the Trail and Ultrarunning Club, working with members on injury prevention, training, and rehabilitation. He is a four-time finisher of 100 mile trail running events and a 10-time finisher of the Hellgate 100k race. In 2015, he won the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Ultramarathon series. Jordan shows the true meaning of “Once a Hokie, Always a Hokie” through his continued commitment to service and dedication to his patients, the community, the university, and the department.
Brenda Davy (B.S. '89, M.S. '92) has a productive research program, and she is an internationally-recognized authority in the field of dietetics and has helped inform the emerging area of research on the role of water and sugar-sweetened beverages in health and weight management. Brenda was also one of the founding members and initiators of the university-level Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program on Water and Health, which has received international recognition and has helped to foster inter-disciplinary collaboration on water research, teaching, and outreach. She is also a strong promotor of healthy eating and physical activity and helps translate her expertise to community members through social media, as a guest presenter to various community groups, and as a volunteer at the Free Clinic in Christiansburg, providing free dietetic counseling to impoverished individuals.
Kristen Chang (B.S. ’10, M.S. ‘11, dietetic internship '12) has a private practice nutrition consulting business and blog/website, Real Food for Fuel, with an emphasis on providing sports nutrition, weight management, and corporate wellness services.
Since graduation, Kristen has volunteered for the department and served as adjunct instructor. She is sought out as a recognized expert in dietetics and sports throughout Virginia, and she volunteers her knowledge with other leading experts and athletes within the region.
In 2015, she served a trip leader for the Community Coalition for Haiti. She provided nutrition services via a mobile health clinic with a goal of preventing and reversing malnutrition and chronic disease through nutrition interventions.
Brenda Harmon Rohe (B.S. '66) is an outpatient registered dietitian for Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. She has provided advisory support to the department’s accredited dietetics programs, and her named scholarship has been awarded to 22 dietetics students planning to become registered dietitians. She also supports university alumni functions in North Carolina. Brenda was a member of the American Dietetic Association and held leadership roles in several associations in the dietetics profession. Additionally, Brenda has published recipes in Southern Living Magazine and Annual Cookbooks. Brenda’s many contributions to health fairs and community events related to nutrition, weight management, diabetes, and heart health allow her to carry out the Virginia Tech motto "Ut Prosim."
Recent Alumna, HNFE & CALS
Katrina Piercy (Ph.D. '10) is the physical activity and nutrition advisor with the Department of Health and Human Services in the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Lt. Piercy was a subcommittee lead for the development and promotion of the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans and designs the My Plate guidelines. She also serves as a mentor and preceptor to students going through the visiting scholar program, and led, at the request of the Acting Surgeon General, the annual Physical Fitness Test Project for the almost 7000 members of the Public Health Service.
CALS Hall of Fame Award
Jim and Janet Johnson were recognized for their volunteerism and development efforts in receiving this award. Janet has worked tirelessly for HNFE and the college since retiring, and assisted our alumni transition from Human Sciences to CALS; she also helped coordinate HNFE's 50th anniversary. Jim was honored for his work with Virginia Cooperative Extension. The Johnsons previously received the NAADA Ruby C. McSwain Philanthropist Award.
Nancy Rodriguez (B.S. '78) is a registered dietitian and a professor at the University of Connecticut. A fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, she is well published and has a long history of extramural support. She is a also a member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, and one of her goals is to promote physical education. "PE is no longer mandated in school curriculums in the country," Nancy says. "If you want to say every kid should be active and moving, it should be embedded in the curriculum."
Courtney Robert Pinard (Ph.D. '10) was offered the role of Research Scientist with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition after graduation, and during her short career, she has contributed to 30 refereed presentations and posters and 13 peer-reviewed publications. She is a also an expert panel member on the National Cancer Institute's Food, Activity, Sun-Safety, Sleep, and Tobacco Survey team. Courtney's current research focus is access to healthful foods for low-income families and health surveillance.
Olivia Ellis (B.S. '14) had an overwhelming passion for Virginia Tech and truly embodied the Hokie spirit both academically and personally. She represented the college in many events and organizations, was the student director of the university's Extended Orientation Program, served as a student speaker at VT Open House, was a VT FLEx mentor, and was a member of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity. During her ambassador duties, she was positive, dependable, and enthusiastic; her personal mission statement is to "enhance lives by encouraging healthy lifestyles through fitness and nutrition."
Chrissie Chawanje Mughogho (Ph.D. '98): after returning to Malawi following completion of her doctorate in HNFE, Chrissie, a Fulbright Scholar, rose through the academic ranks at the University of Malawi to become the first woman dean of applied sciences. She was a strong advocate for the improvement of the education of girls in Malawi and was elected national Chairperson of the Forum for African Women Educationalists in Malawi from 2004 to 2005. In 2005 Chrissie embarked on a career as a diplomat, becoming Malawi's ambassador to Zambia. She was appointed as Malawi's ambassador to India in 2010, and Malawi's ambassador to Bangladesh in 2012. Note: Chrissie passed away in January 2014. Read more about her in the Spring 2014 Issue of Happenings.
Heidi Hertz's (B.S. '04) mission is to promote healthy communities through increasing access to healthy and nutritious foods, opportunities for physical activity, and preventing and reducing obesity. As the Obesity Prevention Coordinator for the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, Heidi manages funds related to childhood obesity including General Assembly appropriation of $1 million per year for obesity prevention activities. She directs initiatives and projects including a statewide conference on childhood obesity; the Virginia Youth Obesity Prevention initiative; serving as a liaison to the office of the first lady, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth internship program; and media outreach and communication. Heidi contributes to the department by collaborating with faculty on research and outreach, supervising undergraduate student interns, mentoring dietetic interns and graduate students, and serving in an advisory capacity to their accredited dietetic programs.
Kiley Petencin (B.S. '13) was a leader in the organization, always bringing a well-rounded wealth of knowledge and experience to discussions and committee work. Kiley served the program in several capacities, from chairing the committee to plan the ambassador-organized brown bag lunch on generational diversity in the classroom, to fundraising for the program's Relay for Life team, to sharing a presentation with the members about her semester-long internship with Heifer Ranch. She put her passion for Ut Prosim and the college behind every project. She was a major spokesperson for the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems minor and participated in a service learning trip to Honduras as part of the minor.
Catherine Woteki (M.S. '72, Ph.D. '75) has had a distinguished career in government, academics, and industry. She served as the first undersecretary for food safety at USDA, the dean of agriculture at Iowa State, the global director of scientific affairs for Mars, Inc., and in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Catherine was the chief scientist and undersecretary for research, education, and economics for USDA. A nutritional epidemiologist, her research interests include nutrition and food safety policy.
Sean Heffron (M.S. '03) was a cardiology fellow at New York University and completed his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and clinical fellowship at Harvard. His fellowship focused on preventative cardiology research and how obesity and metabolic syndrome affects vascular disease.A recipient of multiple awards and fellowships, Sean uses his unique gifts and training to advance medical and scientific knowledge.
CALS Alumni Leadership Award
Heather Cox (B.S. '97, M.S. '08) has been a leader in establishing alumni connections who creates strong relationships by guiding current students into successful career paths through teaching and mentoring. She also engages alumni who contribute to unique experiential and classroom opportunities. Heather also was awarded the Distinguished Dietitian of the Year for Virginia at the annual VDA meeting.
Carolyn Miles (B.S. '69, M.S. '71, Ph.D. '77) recently retired as the Director of the Clinical Obesity and Nutrition Program at NIDDK. She previously conducted research in nutrition and obesity at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center of the USDA and worked with the regulation of infant formulas and dietary supplements at the Food and Drug Administration.
Nicolin Girmes-Grieco ('01 M.S.) teaches undergraduate classes, serves on various committees, and advises approximately 50 students. She has been an instructor in the department since 2008. Nicolin significantly expanded all HNFE 3034 lectures in response to students’ lack of understanding of how the course’s experiential learning applies to research and various healthcare professions. This expansion of relevant background material has made the laboratory procedures more meaningful and more interesting for students.
Outstanding Faculty Service Award
Carol Papillon directs the dietetic internship program and teaches and advises undergraduates and was recognized for her dedication and service to the department. A senior instructor and the dietetic internship director, Carol has directed over 40 undergraduate dietetic students and eight graduate students in their internship program. The program is recognized as a leading program for training students in the area of dietetics. In 2008, she received two prestigious awards from the American Dietetic Association, Outstanding Dietetic Educator for Region VI of Dietetic Educators of Practitioners and Public Policy and Advocacy Award in Dietetics Education awarded to the Virginia Tech Dietetic Internship.
Senior Alumni, HNFE & CALS
Tom Chittenden (Ph.D. '02) is a senior research fellow in molecular and computational cancer genetics at Harvard School of Public Health, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. His also had research fellowships with the Dartmouth Medical School and Harvard's School of Public Health. He studies mechanistic links between vascular pathology in coronary artery disease and cancer. He is also the co-inventor of two methods used to determine collateral artery development in CAD.
Espen Spangenburg (B.S., '95; M.S., '97, Ph.D., '00) is a leading scholar and researcher in the area of skeletal muscle biology who studies gene regulation and cell signaling in skeletal muscle, particularly as it applies to muscular activity, inactivity, and disease. He serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Applied Physiology and has played a key role in promoting youth exercise and fitness. Espen is an active community volunteer who promotes youth fitness and is a youth soccer coach. He was formerly with the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Maryland and now has his research lab with East Carolina University.
Christina McIntyre Baum (B.S. ’96, M.S. ’98) is the associate director of the University Honors Program at Virginia Tech. She previously served as the undergraduate coordinator for HNFE. Baum was instrumental in securing and retaining funding for an undergraduate research program in HNFE and is well-known among department alumni because of her many efforts to maintain contact with them, including the creation of a Facebook page.
Kimberly Freitag Stitzel (B.S. ’96, M.S. ’98, internship ’99) is the director for nutrition and obesity in the Office of Consumer Markets for the national American Heart Association office in Dallas. Her extensive professional experience includes work in the American Dietetic Association’s government affairs office, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Stitzel has served HNFE as a speaker and mentor to students and as a member of the dietetics program advisory committee.
Carl N. King, Ed.D. (B.S. '79) retired as Director of Preventive Cardiology, Cardiovascular Disease Management, and Cardiovascular Research at Forsythe Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. King has been a leader in pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation by devoting his energy and talent to helping colleagues, students, and health-care organizations build more effective and safer programs of clinical care. He recently served as president of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and received its career award for clinical leadership. King has served Virginia Tech through teaching summer workshops for many years and as a member of HNFE’s Advisory Board.
Michelle Smith Rockwell, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D. (B.S. '97, M.S. '99) founded the Sports Nutrition Department at University of Florida and served as its first Director of Sports Nutrition from 2000-2005. She is a co-founder of RK Team Nutrition that provides sports nutrition education to students, dietetic interns, registered dietitians, and athletes. She co-presented a Sports Nutrition Playbook conference on campus in February that was subsidized by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute to allow students to attend for a nominal fee. She has also spoken to HNFE students about her role as a sports nutritionist. She speaks nationally and has authored multiple publications.
Evaleen Jones, MD (B.S. '83) is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Stanford University Department of Family and Community Medicine and is also a Registered Dietitian. She is the founder of Child Family Health International, an institute dedicated to improving health care to underserved populations around the world. Through her leadership, more than 600 medical students each year have the opportunity to complete an elective in a developing country. Donations of unused medical supplies valued at over $1 million support the students’ health services in their host countries. We are pleased to honor Dr. Jones as an outstanding educator and humanitarian.
Heather Kelly Cox, RD (B.S. '97) has worked in a variety of leadership positions, including Director of Nutritional Services at Warm Hearth Retirement Community and Mid-Atlantic Corporate Dietitian for the Kroger Company. In 2002, she was honored with the Outstanding Young Registered Dietitian of the Year award and has served as a preceptor, speaker, and intern selection committee member for the Dietetic Internship. She is currently completing graduate studies in HNFE and leading the development of a new course to enhance the food service management knowledge of dietetic students.