Department of Nutrition

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

MCH Nutrition Leadership Team


Marsha Spence  

Dr. Marsha Spence, Associate Professor and Director of the Public Health Nutrition Graduate Program, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and community nutrition researcher with a focus on pediatric obesity prevention in schools and communities, leadership development, positive youth development, and parent engagement in nutrition and physical activity education programs for youth. Dr. Spence, who is a first generation college graduate, was a funded MCH leadership trainee during her master and doctoral programs at the University of Tennessee. The training program provided Dr. Spence with numerous opportunities to explore her leadership and professional potential and developed her passion for strengthening the MCH workforce, increasing health and social equity, and decreasing hunger, especially among the MCH population in Appalachia and the Southeast.

Dr. Spence is an active leader in local, state, and national associations and agencies, including serving as current president of the Association of Graduate Programs in Public Health Nutrition; past chair and section councilor and current governing councilor of the American Public Health Association’s Food and Nutrition Section; national advisory committee member for the Embedding Cultural Diversity and Cultural and Linguistic Competence: A Guide for UCEDD Curricula and Training Activities; a board member for Our Daily Bread of Tennessee; and steering committee member for the Knoxville Area Coalition on Childhood Obesity.


Elizabeth (Betsy) Anderson Steeves

Dr. Anderson Steeves is an Assistant Professor in the Public Health Nutrition program. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds a doctoral degree in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She completed her Master’s in Public Health Nutrition and Dietetic Internship at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Dr. Anderson Steeves has a long standing interest in the Maternal and Child population. She served as an unfunded MCH Nutrition trainee during her Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, and received specialized training in adolescent health when she served as a Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) trainee at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Dr. Anderson Steeves holds several leadership positions including serving as a co-chair of the Retailers Sub-unit of the Healthy Food Retail Working Group of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  She is also an Associate member of the Knoxville Food Policy Council. Dr. Anderson Steeves’ research interests involve community-based interventions to reduce health disparities and prevent obesity among under-served populations and in conducting research to examine how social and physical (built) environments influence food purchasing and consumption behaviors of youth and families.

Funded MCH Nutrition Leadership Trainees

Julianne Evans

Julianne is graduate student pursing a Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition with a thesis. She graduated from the University of Dayton in May 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, Food and Nutrition. Julianne has had the  opportunity as an undergraduate to participate in research focusing on cooking demonstrations and food insecure populations and her work with leadership programs on campus awarded her 2019 Ohio Outstanding Dietetic Student of Year and 2019 National Student Employee of the Year. Her experience with undergraduate research and as a summer nanny drew her to the MCH Nutrition Leadership Team because she wishes to gain more knowledge and experience on programs that influence people from diverse backgrounds, especially MCH populations. Julianne is passionate about working with medically underserved children and sustainable food systems. As a trainee, she hopes to continue learning how to best support medically underserved mothers and children.

Rachel Klenzman

Rachel is a dietetic intern and dual graduate student, pursuing a Master of Science in Nutrition and Master of Public Health. In May 2018, she received her Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. Rachel’s experience as a research assistant in perinatal, behavioral health, and surgical outcomes at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio sparked her passion for the MCH population. With Dr. Katie Kavanagh as her major professor, Rachel is devoting her thesis work to infant feeding and maternal support research. Upon graduation, she plans to continue working to improve availability and quality of support for mothers and infants.

Abigail Rider

Abigail Rider is a Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition student and Dietetic Intern at the University of Tennessee. She also received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Tennessee in May 2018. Abigail is interested in public health nutrition interventions that aim to reduce childhood food insecurity, with a special interest in school-based interventions. Her thesis research focused on the availability of Summer Nutrition Programs in the state of Tennessee. She has additional research experience working with the MCH population as a Graduate Research Assistant on the Get Fruved project which was a USDA intervention/control study that focused on the high school food environment of several schools in Knox County and as a graduate researcher on the Shop Smart Tennessee project which was an intervention study with families with young children that received SNAP benefits. Abigail has additional community-based experience working with the MCH population through the N.E.A.T. program, which is an after-school nutrition and physical activity program administered through the Knox County Health Department, as well as through a local church where she mentored middle school students for the past three years. She has been a Maternal and Child Health Nutrition Leadership trainee since May 2020 and will be graduating in August 2020. Abigail hopes to use her training to address childhood food insecurity as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

Sa’Nealdra Wiggins

Sa’Nealdra is a doctoral student pursuing a degree in Nutritional Sciences with a concentration in Community Nutrition. In 2012 she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Health Education-Public Health from Middle Tennessee State University. She completed her dietetic internship in May 2020 and will be taking the RD exam in 2021. Sa’Nealdra has gained years of research experience through her involvement in the REACH lab. She served as an undergraduate and graduate researcher on GetFruved, a social marketing campaign seeking to improve healthy eating, physical activity, and stress management among adolescents. Sa’Nealdra is passionate about parental modeling and dietary behavior among black women and adolescents. Sa’Nealdra is currently a Tennessee Doctoral Scholars Fellow, which is a fellowship funded by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and UT’s Graduate School. After graduation, she hopes to work in the government sector of public health nutrition.

Emily Wojtowicz

Emily received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Arizona. Then, she went on to complete a combined dietetic internship and Master of Science program at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, Ohio. Emily’s Master’s degree is in Community Nutrition with an emphasis on child and maternal health. After completing her dietetic internship, she worked with the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program as a high-risk dietitian, lactation consultant, and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program (BFPC) coordinator. Her research interests include barriers to breastfeeding, infant feeding, and human lactation.


This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number T79MC09805, Leadership Education in Maternal and Child Health Nutrition, $223,929, 50% funded by the University of Tennessee, Department of Nutrition. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

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