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Health and wellness focus expands in Henrietta Schmoll School of Health

Holly Willis plans to give students options to pursue exciting careers in dietetics and nutrition.
Holly Willis plans to give students options to pursue exciting careers in dietetics and nutrition.
Photo by Ashley de los Reyes '15.

Holly Willis joined St. Kate’s faculty in 2014 to create a new Nutrition Sciences major to give students more pathways to pursue careers or advanced degrees in medicine, business, public health, research or food science.

On June 1, she added the role of Program Director for the Dietetics Department to her portfolio.

In the announcement, Associate Dean and Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences Mark Blegen said the change will elevate all nutrition-related careers, bring a greater focus to women in science, and advance the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health’s increasing focus on disease prevention and wellness.

Willis’s career credits in nutrition include General Mills, where she was a senior research scientist translating science and policy across the company, and New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where she counseled cancer patients as a clinical and research dietitian.

She completed her doctoral program in nutrition at the University of Minnesota and earned a master’s degree in nutrition communication at Tufts University. A registered dietitian, Willis completed her dietetic internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a major teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.

The breadth of her own career fuels her desire to bring the opportunities she has had to St. Kate’s students.

“It was always my goal to come back to academia,” says Willis. “I was drawn to St. Catherine for its mission around social justice and deep sense of community here.”

She sees the Nutrition Science and Dietetics majors running in partnership to give students a variety of options and opportunities for careers. “Food and nutrition is at the core of so many health-related issues, everything from diabetes to immune disorders,” she says. “But it also plays a critical role in prevention and healing.”

She believes there are huge opportunities in companies like General Mills for students who have a strong academic foundation and an inter-disciplinary mindset. Willis is also working with the Master of Public Health Program Director Mary Hearst to launch a 3+2 program for students pursuing the Applied Nutrition Science major.

“Nutrition is a field that is dominated by women,” she says. “I want to empower our students to pursue these great opportunities.”

Related content:

Nutrition of Olympic proportions: Advice for athletes

Exercise and Sport Science partners with USA Curling

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June 10, 2015 by Julie Michener

See also: Faculty, Healthcare, Leadership