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MCH Nutrition Leadership Team

Marsha Spence is a professor of practice 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. Professor 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 Professor 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.

Professor Spence is an active leader in local, state, and national associations and agencies, including serving as past president of the Association of Graduate Programs in Public Health Nutrition; past chair, section councilor, and governing councilor of the American Public Health Association’s Food and Nutrition Section; national advisory committee member for Georgetown University’s Embedding Cultural Diversity and Cultural and Linguistic Competence: A Guide for UCEDD Curricula and Training Activities; and a past board member for Our Daily Bread of Tennessee. Currently, she serves as a steering committee member for the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists’ Farm to Early Care and Education . the president of the East Tennessee Childhood Obesity Coalition, and as a board member for the Greater Knoxville American Heart Association.


Elizabeth (Betsy) Anderson Steeves is an assistant professor in the Public Health Nutrition program. She is a registered dietitian/nutritionist 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. Professor 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) funded trainee at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Professor 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. Professor 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


Katie Bell is a graduate student pursuing dual degrees in nutrition and public health and a funded MCH trainee. She graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in human nutrition and dietetics. She moved to Knoxville to pursue her master of science degree in public health nutrition as well as her master of public health degree in community health education. Additionally, she completed her dietetic internship in summer 2021. She worked as a graduate research assistant in the Healthy Eating and Activity Laboratory and was an intern with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Population Health, School Health Branch team. Her research interests include childhood obesity prevention and intervention. After graduation she hopes to continue public health nutrition work at the federal level.

Alex Gardner is a first-year MPH student with a concentration in Community Health Education at the University of Tennessee. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Health in Human Sciences with a concentration in Dietetics and minors in French and Psychology in 2020 at the University of Tennessee. During her undergraduate years, Alex worked in the REACH lab as lead undergraduate researcher on the GetFRUVED project implementing healthy lifestyle behaviors at local high schools. In addition, she volunteered as a N.E.A.T. Educator for 3 years at a local elementary school mentoring over 60 K-5th graders about a healthful lifestyle. Also, Alex studied abroad in India during the summer of 2018 as a malnutrition and food insecurity intern in rural Indian villages where she learned the basis of the Indian public health system. Alex completed her dietetic internship in Denver, Colorado through Tri-County Health Department with a focus in the WIC population and recently passed her Registered Dietitian Examination. Alex’s professional interests include plant-based nutrition, general nutritional education and counseling, and the MCH/breastfeeding population.

Candace Sapp is a doctoral student and funded MCH trainee at the University of Tennessee, pursuing a degree in Nutritional Sciences with a concentration in Community Nutrition. She completed her combined master’s in clinical nutrition and dietetic internship at the University of Memphis where she worked as a graduate assistant at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Candace completed her master’s thesis project on the effectiveness of the Cooking Matters cooking and nutrition education program on increasing cooking self-efficacy and fruit and vegetable consumption in high school students in Memphis, Tennessee. She worked as a registered dietitian/nutritionist for three years in the greater Memphis area. Candace’s current research focuses on the implementation of nutrition interventions related to childhood obesity in minoritized populations. As part of her role as a funded trainee, Candace works with Professor Dorian McCoy, director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.


Emily Wojtowicz 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 as a registered dietitian/nutritionist with the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program as a high-risk dietitian, lactation consultant, and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program (BFPC) coordinator. Currently, Emily is a doctoral student at the University of Tennessee and funded MCH trainee. 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, $223,777, 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.