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MCH Nutrition Leadership Team

Marsha Spence is a professor of practice and director of the Public Health Nutrition Graduate Program and is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and community nutrition researcher with a focus on healthy nutrition and physical activity environments for pediatric and maternal populations; improving food and nutrition security among mothers, children, adolescents, young adults and their families; 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.


Funded MCH Nutrition Leadership Trainees


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.

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.