The Institute Of Human Nutrition

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2017 Food Systems Workshop - Panelist Biographies

June 8 - 9, 2017

Selena Ahmed, PhD
Workshop Leader, Building Student Capacity to Lead Sustainability Transitions in the Food System through Farm-based Authentic Research Modules in Sustainability Sciences (FARMS)
Dr. Selena Ahmed’s research, teaching, and service interests are at the intersection of the ecological, cultural, and health aspects of food systems. She leads the Agro-ecology and Phytochemistry Group of the Food and Health Lab at Montana State University. Her research programs focuses on the effects of environmental and management variation on multiple dimensions of agro-ecosystems and links to livelihoods, dietary quality, and food security. Central questions of her research program include: What are effects of climate change on specialty crop quality and how does this vary with agro-ecosystem management? How do health outcomes of local food systems reflect the ecology, culture, and policy of a place? This work includes local, regional, and international projects that seek to inform evidence-based management plans and outreach to promote environmental and human wellbeing.  For more information, visit her collaborative website of the Food and Health Lab here:


Sharon R. Akabas, PhD
Systems Thinking Workshop Organizer
Dr. Akabas is Director, MS Program in Nutrition and Associate Director for Educational Initiatives, Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Akabas’ primary interests are in education of health professionals about the importance of nutrition as a modality in disease prevention and treatment. She works with professionals from almost all healthcare sectors to develop programs and curricula that focus on childhood obesity. These collaborations include organizing symposia for practicing health care professionals, working with community groups to develop obesity prevention programs, and working with a wide range of groups to identify, understand and lessen bias towards overweight children and adults.  Click here for more information:


Karen Bassarab, MSCRP
Workshop leader, Building Student and Community Capacity Through Research on Food Policy Groups
Karen Bassarb is a Senior Program Officer at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. In this position, she works with the Food Policy Networks project, a growing network of multi-stakeholder groups in North America that strive to achieve lasting food and agricultural systems policy change. Karen enjoys working with this dynamic network because of the challenge in addressing regional environmental, political and cultural variations in the food system. Karen has a Masters degree in community and regional planning and experience as a consultant, transportation planner, educator and baker.    


Erin Betley, MS
Systems Thinking Workshop Organizer
As Biodiversity Specialist and Programs Coordinator at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History, Erin Betley provides research and writing support for various CBC projects and is content research specialist for the AMNH traveling exhibition Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture and Water H20=Life. She is author of several scholarly and educational materials on the topics of biodiversity conservation, food, and water, including case studies for the CBC’s Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners and the AMNH Seminars on Science Course Water: Environmental Science, a CODiE Award winner for Best Professional Development Solution from the Software & Information Industry Association. Erin holds an MA in Conservation Biology from Columbia University’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology and a BA in Biology from Boston University.


Joanne Burke, PhD, RD, LD
Workshop Leader, Discerning Entry Level Competency Standards in Sustainable Food System Theory & Practice
Dr. Joanne Burke is the Thomas W. Haas Professor in Sustainable Food Systems at the Sustainability Institute, at the University of New Hampshire. She provides leadership in efforts designed to advance sustainable agriculture, nutrition, and racial justice & food equity on campus, and at the state and regional level. She is a member of the Sustainability Institute’s Food Solutions New England regional team, and the NH Food Alliance. As a faculty member in the UNH Department of Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Science’s Nutrition Program, she teaches community nutrition and food-system related courses while integrating practicum-based learning experiences at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Joanne is the Director of the graduate level Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Internship Program and is a member of the UNH EcoGastronomy and Dual Major in Sustainability faculty teams.


Kate Burrows, MPH
Workshop Leader, Using a Combination of Value Chain Analysis and Life Cycle Assessment to Examine the Trade-offs of Food Production and Consumption
This workshop will provide an overview of value chain analysis and life cycle assessment and how it can be used to examine the environmental and nutrition/health trade-offs of food production and the way it moves throughout the value chain. This workshop will provide examples of both take-home and in-class exercises that challenge students to think about the environmental and nutrition/health implications of the way we produce, process, distribute, sell and consume food.

Kate Burrows, MPH, is doctoral student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Her research is focused on climate change and population health and she is particularly interested in food systems and security. Kate holds a B.A. in Sustainable Development from Columbia University, and an M.P.H. from Mailman School of Public Health. Prior to her doctoral studies, Kate worked as a Research Assistant at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC), a research intern at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and as a sustainability analyst in New York City.  


Carmen Byker Shanks, PhD
Workshop Leader, Integrating Community-based Learning in Nutrition and Food Systems Courses 
Dr. Shanks is Assistant Professor, Food and Nutrition and Sustainable Food Systems at Montana State University. Dr. Carmen Byker Shanks’ teaching, research, and outreach expertise lies in behavioral and social sciences focused on food and nutrition. She teaches courses that explore community nutrition, culinary methods and management, research methods, human development, and sustainable food systems.
She leads the Behavioral Nutrition Research Group of the Food and Health Lab (FAHL) at Montana State University (MSU). In her research, she addresses nutritional needs of communities through direct collaboration and the use of nutrient analysis tools, surveying, sensory testing, food environment instruments, food weighing and plate waste, mapping, inventories, and qualitative methodology. Click here for more information:


Kate Clancy, PhD
Plenarist, Transforming Thought Into Action II: The Systems and Transdisciplinary Aspects of the EFSNE Project, Workshop Leader, Pedagogical Aspects of the Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast (EFSNE) Food Systems Project
Kate Clancy is currently a food systems consultant, Visiting Scholar at the Center for a Livable Future Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Adjunct Professor at Tufts University, and Senior Fellow in the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, University of Minnesota (she resides in University Park, Maryland). She earned her doctorate in Nutrition at the University of California, Berkeley. Her resume includes positions at Cornell and Syracuse University and sabbatical appointments at the Universities of Wisconsin and Minnesota, the latter as a rotating endowed chair in 2007. She has worked as a nutrition and policy advisor at the Federal Trade Commission, and at several nonprofits such as the Wallace Center. Clancy developed a graduate course on food systems in 1982 and since then has published, taught, spoken, and consulted widely on sustainable agriculture, food systems, and food policy with government agencies, universities, and nonprofits around the country. She has promoted the idea of sustainable diets since 1983. She has served on many boards including the Food and Drug Administration Food Advisory Council. She is the deputy director of the USDA-funded six-year EFSNE systems project in the Northeast United States, and engaged with many initiatives including Agriculture of the Middle and It Takes a Region. She publishes a column in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development on topics related to the application of systems concepts to food systems.


Shauna Downs, PhD
Workshop Leader, Using a Combination of Value Chain Analysis and Life Cycle Assessment to Examine the Trade-offs of Food Production and Consumption
This workshop will provide an overview of value chain analysis and life cycle assessment and how it can be used to examine the environmental and nutrition/health trade-offs of food production and the way it moves throughout the value chain. This workshop will provide examples of both take-home and in-class exercises that challenge students to think about the environmental and nutrition/health implications of the way we produce, process, distribute, sell and consume food.

Shauna Downs, PhD, is a Hecht-Levi Fellow with the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Her research focuses on two main areas: 1) the role of policies and interventions to reorient the food system towards the production and consumption of nutritious foods and 2) the environmental and health trade-offs of the promotion of healthy diets. She conducts research in India, Senegal, Myanmar and New York City using various methodological approaches (e.g., value chain analysis, policy analysis, impact evaluations, etc.) Prior to coming to Johns Hopkins, Shauna was an Earth Institute Fellow at Columbia University where her research focused on the impacts of intensified horticultural production, complemented with nutrition education, on nutrition outcomes in Senegal and evidence-informed best practices regarding how to produce and consume healthy food in sustainable ways. Shauna received her PhD in Public Health from the Menzies Centre for Health Policy at the University of Sydney where her work focused on the use of policy to improve the quality of the food supply in India. Her dissertation research used food supply chain analysis to identify points in the Indian fats supply chain where policy interventions could be implemented to improve the availability, affordability and acceptability of healthier oils. She also has a Master’s of Science in Nutrition from the University of Alberta, Canada. 


Steven Gray, PhD
Panelist, Modeling for Learning: Looking Inside the 'Systems Thinking' Toolbox, Workshop Leader, Promoting and Measuring Systems Thinking with Mental Modeler 
Dr. Gray is an assistant professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University. His research focuses on socio-environmental modeling and developing easy-to-use software tools that promote ‘systems thinking’ in applied conservation planning and in sustainability education. He is the lead editor of the book, Environmental Modeling with Stakeholders: Methods, Theories and Applications (Springer 2017) and the lead developer of the participator modeliing software Mental Modeler. 


Julie Grossman, PhD
Workshop leader, DEAL (Describe, Examine and Articulate your Learning): A Reflection Framework for Assessing Student Community-Engaged Learning
Julie Grossman is an Associate Professor of Biological Principles of Sustainable and Organic Food Systems in the Horticulture Department of the University of Minnesota, where her research explores the ways in which we can better manage plant-soil-microbe relationships to enhance soil fertility in organic farming systems. Prior to her return to the University of Minnesota in 2014, Dr. Grossman spent 7 years as faculty in the Department of Soil Science at NC State University, working in soil fertility management of organic farming systems. She holds an M.S. in Soil Science and Ph.D. in Agronomy and Plant Genetics from the University of Minnesota, and was an NSF Post-doctoral Fellow at Cornell University.  Julie is passionate about teaching within the realm of soil agroecology, and teaches an advanced course on organic agriculture and the capstone course for the UMN Food Systems major. Central to Julie’s teaching toolbox are pedagogical strategies that help students learn to collectively address public needs while developing disciplinary competency and skills, for which she received the Opal Mann Green Engagement and Scholarship Award in 2011. Julie is also the Past Chair of the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association (SAEA), a professional society championing innovative educational approaches for sustainable agriculture through the development, application, and research of teaching and learning practices. 



Debbie Humphries, PhD, MPH
Workshop leader, Mapping the Global Food System: Developing and Applying Food Sector Causal Loop Diagrams
Debbie Humphries, PhD, MPH, is a clinical instructor at the Yale School of Public Health. She is a public health nutritionist who has worked, lectured and consulted in the areas of global food and nutrition issues, both domestically and internationally for fifteen years. She is interested in the global food system, and how business, agriculture and economic policy contribute to malnutrition. Her current research focus is on the relationship between malnutrition and infection in resource-limited settings. Her expertise bridges research and applied programmatic issues. She has provided consulting expertise in the areas of diet and physical activity behavior change, farm to school programs, community food systems, sustainability of community health programs, and program monitoring and evaluation.


Betty Izumi, PhD, MPH, RD
Workshop Leader, Integrating Community-based Learning in Nutrition and Food Systems Courses 
Dr. Izumi is an Assistant Professor in the School of Community Health at Portland State University, where her research and teaching focus on issues at the intersection of nutrition, sustainability, and health equity. She has served on faculty since 2010. Dr. Izumi is both a dietitian and an interventionist who is motivated to help address diet-related chronic diseases and obesity by using a community-based participatory research approach to develop programs that are effective, locally relevant and sustainable.

Izumi serves on the advisory boards of Village Gardens and the Chef Ann Foundation. She is a scientific advisory council member for Menus of Change, a national program working to infuse principles of sustainability into the food industry.  Click here for more information:


Rebecca Jordan, PhD
Panelist, Modeling for Learning: Looking Inside the 'Systems Thinking' Toolbox, Workshop Leader, System Modeling: Using a Conceptual Representation and Conceptual Modeling Tool to Explore Systems Thinking
Rebecca Jordan focuses her work on understanding how individuals reason with scientific data. In particular, she is seeking to understand how individuals generate and test explanations for complex phenomena. She investigates these questions working with several audiences (e.g., grade 6-12 students, undergraduate and graduate students, and the public involved in citizen science) to test general questions about causal reasoning with regard to individual decision-making. Some of her current research include testing: 1. the idea that when confronting complex issues and systems, a mechanistic or causal mental model is most associated with transfer of ideas to new contexts, which is a prime goal for learning, 2. the typical biases related to information, data, and data visualizations that individuals have when confronting novel environmental scenarios and how these biases interact with their use of evidence to support explanations. You can learn more here:


Tom Kelly, PhD
Plenarist, Transforming Thought into Action I: Food Solutions New England: From Connecting to Aligning for Collaborative Action
Dr. Tom Kelly is executive director of the UNH Sustainability Institute, which he founded in 1997, and the Chief Sustainability Officer of the University of New Hampshire (UNH). Throughout his three decades of national and international work in higher education, Dr. Kelly has focused on sustainability as a transformative cultural force, and the creative process of engaging its disruptive and inspirational dynamics in education, research, and practice. He co-edited and authored "The Sustainable Learning Community: One University's Journey to the Future" (2009) a book written by more than sixty UNH faculty and staff engaged in collaborative sustainability efforts on and beyond the campus that have established UNH as one of the most innovative sustainability institutions in higher education.

Dr. Kelly’s current activities include a focus on the practice of facilitative and network leadership in developing transdisciplinary approaches to sustainability challenges. He is a founding convener of Food Solutions New England, a six-state, network working to realize a shared vision for a sustainable, regional food system. He is a co-author of A New England Food Vision, as well as the 2017 article “Equity as Common Cause: How a Sustainable Food System Network is Cultivating a Commitment to Racial Justice.” The article is published in the journal Othering and Belonging. He is also a collaborative designer and facilitator of the Food Solutions New England Network Leadership Institute and a founding convener of the New Hampshire Food Alliance. 



Pam Koch, EdD, RD
Workshop Leader, Engaging College Students in Sustainability through Dietary Guidance
Pam Koch works at the intersection of sustainable food systems and nutrition education. She has written, evaluated, and conducted professional development for several curricula including: Linking Food and the Environment (LiFE) curriculum series; Food Day School Curriculum; In Defense of Food Curriculum; Art & Healthy Living with Studio in a School, and Seed to Plate with GrownNYC. Pam was part of the team who developed the Garden Resource Education and Environment Nexus (GREEN) Tool to create school gardens that are well-integrated into the curriculum and culture. She has led several evaluations including Edible Schoolyard NYC, FoodCorps, Wellness in the Schools, and New York City Food & Fitness Partnership. She is part of the School Food Focus team developing Recipes for Food System Change, professional development modules for school food service. Pam teaches Nutritional Ecology with Dr. Joan Gussow and Community Nutrition and is part of the Environmental and Sustainable Education working group at Teachers College. She has been a member of Roxbury Farm CSA for over 20 years. Pam brings passion, dedication, and her flare for graphic design to all she does.


Tammy Long, PhD
Panelist, Modeling for Learning: Looking Inside the 'Systems Thinking' Toolbox, Workshop Leader, A Beginner's Guide to Conceptual Modeling in the Undergraduate Classroom
Tammy Long is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Biology at Michigan State University. As part of a broader effort to integrate disciplinary practices into introductory biology curricula, her research team developed a systems-based approach for teaching biology that uses conceptual modeling as both instruction and assessment. Research in her lab is focused on better understanding the mechanisms by which students use models to represent, interpret, and reason about biological systems. Current research questions include: How do contextual features of problems and systems influence students' approaches to modeling tasks and their perceptions about the value of scientific models? And, how can we use data derived from student-constructed models to inform us about their systems thinking abilities?


Chris Peters, PhD
Workshop Leader, Pedagogical Aspects of the Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast (EFSNE) Food Systems Project
Dr. Peters is Assistant Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, at Tufts University. His research interests lie in the developing field of sustainability science, within the thematic area of food systems. Within this broad, trans-disciplinary field, Dr. Peters focuses on the modeling of food systems. To date, he has used quantitative modeling approaches to explore four major topics: (1) Land requirements of the human diet, (2) the human carrying capacity of agricultural land resources, (3) the potential of local and regional production systems to supply food needs, and (4) Feed needs of livestock systems.

Dr. Peters is perhaps most well-known for his spatial analysis of potential local foodsheds, providing a concrete example of a term that has resonated with the local and regional food movements. As a result of this experience, Dr. Peters was invited to lead a research team within the USDA-funded project entitled "Enhancing Food Security of Underserved Populations in the Northeast through Sustainable Regional Food Systems" (or EFSNE). The "Scenarios and Modeling Team" includes all modelers on the EFSNE project and is charged with the development of scenarios and the identification of opportunities for linking models. Dr. Peters accepted this role in hopes of integrating biophysical and economic models of regional food systems.
Finally, Dr. Peters seeks to understand the contribution that modeling has made to the knowledge base related to the sustainability of food systems. To this end, he has developed a new course entitled "Food Systems Modeling and Analysis" designed to teach students some of the approaches used in this emerging field.  Click here for more information:


Mary Rogers, PhD
Workshop Leader, DEAL (Describe, Examine and Articulate your Learning): A Reflection Framework for Assessing Student Community-Engaged Learning
Dr. Rogers is an Assistant Professor of Sustainable & Organic Horticultural Food Production Systems in the Department of Horticultural Science at the UMN. Mary earned her B.S. in Environmental Horticulture and M.S. in Entomology from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in Plants, Soils and Insects from the University of Tennessee, focusing in integrated pest management for organic horticultural systems. Mary's research program investigates plant‐insect interactions and biological and environmental strategies to improve the production of organic vegetables and fruit in the upper Midwest. She advises students in the new Food Systems major at the UMN and is currently developing the new introductory class for the major: FDSY 1016W: Growing Food and Building Community: Urban Agriculture in the Twin Cities. Mary also co-instructs ESPM 3108/5108: Ecology of Managed Landscapes and HORT 3480: Topics in Sustainable Horticulture: Food Justice in the Twin Cities, and instructs a graduate course, HORT 5032: Organic Vegetable Production. Mary’s research program involves close collaboration with grower stakeholders and utilizes on-farm research. In addition, Mary is involved in a multiple community-university partnerships to engage underserved youth in urban agriculture and participatory models to facilitate food systems education with high school students.  



Raychel Santo, MSc
Workshop leader, Building Student and Community Capacity Through Research on Food Policy Groups
Raychel Santo is a Senior Program Coordinator at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. She works on a variety of research projects related to local/regional food governance (through the Food Policy Networks project), the relationship between diet and climate change, urban agriculture, and institutional food procurement. Raychel earned her Master’s degree in Food, Space & Society from Cardiff University School of Geography & Planning and her BA in Public Health and Environmental Change & Sustainability from Johns Hopkins University.


Karen Spiller
Workshop Leader, Discerning Entry Level Competency Standards in Sustainable Food System Theory & Practice
Karen Spiller is principal of KAS Consulting and provides mission-based consulting with a focus on resource matching, board development and strategic planning for health and equity-focused initiatives. She has extensive experience in working with youth, young adults and community members in a variety of educational and training programs. Karen serves on national and regional committees and leads teams committed to creating equitable public health and sustainable food systems with a number of organizations and initiatives including Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) As national SOPHE Chair of Chapter Development, she managed the coordination and collaboration of SOPHE’s 21 chapters across the US for three years.

Currently, Karen is the Boston Chapter Program Director of Albert Schweitzer Fellowship where she directs the competitive selection of new candidates. She supervises and mentors an average of 15 Fellows in the development and implementation of a direct-service community project addressing an unmet health need. Involved in state-wide and regional food system work, Karen is an engaged core team member of the Food Solutions New England network. She serves as Massachusetts Ambassador for its New England Food Vision linking the racial equity work of students; residents; organizations and; communities of color to the evolving food system work happening across the New England states.


Eleanor Sterling, PhD
Systems Thinking Workshop Organizer
Dr. Eleanor Sterling is Chief Conservation Scientist at the American Museum of Natural History's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. Dr. Sterling has more than 30 years of field research experience in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. She has curated five exhibitions at AMNH and is most recently the co-curator of the Museum’s travelling exhibition on the global food system: Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture. This wide ranging exhibition explores a suite of issues related to our global food systems, from the role of human ingenuity in shaping food past, present, and future and how food reflects and influences culture and identity, to the environmental impact of the food we eat. Dr. Sterling also serves as Core Affiliated Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York (1997-present), where she teaches courses on conservation biology; biocultural diversity; and Food, Ecology and Globalization. In 2000, Dr. Sterling spearheaded the establishment of the CBC’s Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners, which works to create and implement educational materials and teaching resources for biodiversity conservation at undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels around the world. Dr. Sterling received her B.A. from Yale College and a joint Ph.D. in Anthropology and Forestry and Environmental Studies from Yale University.  For more information, click here:


Will Valley, PhD
Workshop Leader, Integrating Community-based Learning in Nutrition and Food Systems Courses 
Will Valley, PhD is Instructor and Academic Director of the Land, Food, and Community Series at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on the analysis and development of pedagogical approaches related to sustainable food system education programs and assessment of cognitive competencies in systems thinkers.  For more information, click here:


Jennifer Wilkins, PhD, RD
Workshop Leader, Engaging College Students in Sustainability through Dietary Guidance
Jennifer Wilkins, PhD, RD is currently the first Daina E. Falk Professor of Practice in Nutrition in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at Syracuse University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in community nutrition, food policy, nutrition education and program planning and conducts on consumer implications of emerging food systems, regional dietary guidance, health and sustainability. From 1993 to 2014, she was a senior extension associate in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. In 2008 she was appointed as the Community Coordinator for the Cornel Dietetic Internship Program and began teaching a graduate-level Community Nutrition course. In the early 1990s Jennifer conceptualized and developed the nation’s first regional food guide in the United States – called the Northeast Regional Food Guide. An updated version, MyPlate – Northeast is now available. As a Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow from 2004 to 2006 she developed a column, The Food Citizen, which appeared monthly in the Albany Times Union from 2006 to 2011. She has held leadership positions in several professional organizations including the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society. 

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