Dr. Andrea Morris serves as interim associate director, and health and nutrition specialist at Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Alabama A&M University. Get to know Dr. Morris in the following interview.
Tell us a little about your path into your current field. Who and/or what inspired you to pursue public health or science more generally?
My career path began with studying nutrition and hospitality management at Alabama A&M University. After earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I used my education and skills in healthcare facilities, including hospitals and long-term care facilities. My decision to pursue a terminal degree in public health was my desire to participate in the building up of communities to make changes that supported long-term health improvements.
How has funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) shaped your professional development as assisted with your current projects?
NIFA funding has allowed for the development of the Mobile Nutrition Education Unit that we use to bring educational components to unserved and underserved communities across Alabama. The RV is 36 feet long and equipped with interactive opportunities that promote physical activity, proper handwashing techniques, basic nutrition concepts, food safety topics, etc. The Mobile Nutrition Unit provides educational opportunities at schools, churches, community events, health fairs, tailgating events, farmers markets, etc. Equipped with Wi-Fi and other technology components, the unit can support educational experiences in any community.
What advice do you have for current students who may be interested in pursuing a similar career path?
Develop relationships and get connected with others in your field of study. Lean into the support from your college program, faculty and staff. Ask for a mentor—department alumni can be a great source for mentorships. Be sure they are aware of your interest and availability to participate in various opportunities that will allow you to gain experience. Connect with professional organizations that support your field of study. Many have student rates and offer scholarships to students who are interested in membership. Once you have begun to build relationships and have found connections, stay with them, nurture them and help other students along.
Photo: USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture is celebrating Juneteenth. Various images of farmers working in the field and a family spending time together. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.