Leading expert in nutrition education and counseling receives 2016 CHHS Emerging Leader Alumna award

By Shannon Dale

“I appreciated the many opportunities available to undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition to gain more experience in a variety of settings,” says Dawn Clifford (M.S. ’04, Ph.D. ’06). “These opportunities prepared me well for my next career step.”

Clifford, whose time at CSU inspired her to pursue a career in mass media and nutrition education, is the 2016 recipient of the College of Health and Human Sciences Emerging Leader Alumna Award. This award recognizes graduates of the college within the last ten years for accomplishments made in the areas of career, service, and/or volunteer efforts that have brought honor to the individual, to the college, and University.

Dawn Clifford, left, with CHHS Dean Jeff McCubbin
Dawn Clifford, left, with
CHHS Dean Jeff McCubbin

Nutrition education expert

Clifford had a diverse educational experience while in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, which included teaching, conducting research on several different projects, assisting with community programming, and working at the student health center.

Her doctoral thesis, “The development, implementation and evaluation of a cooking show for college students,” earned her the Outstanding Student Research Award by the Society for Nutrition Education, and sparked her interest in mass media education.

Clifford’s success as a student set the stage for her rise to multiple leadership roles at California State University at Chico and nationally. Today, Clifford is an associate professor and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at California State University, and is the leading expert in motivational interviewing and the use of mass media in nutrition education.

As a leading expert in innovative approaches to teaching and learning, Clifford recently co-authored a new book, Motivational Interviewing in Nutrition and Fitness, which has already garnered positive reviews from registered dieticians, nutrition counselors, and fellow educators.

Clifford also co-developed the Health at Every Size curriculum, which is used internationally to educate students and health professionals about non-diet approaches to wellness, and is co-founder and director of FitU, a campus-based health coaching program on the Chico State campus.

“Dawn has emerged as an innovative and dedicated educator. Her FitU program is considered a model program in our field,” explains Mary Harris, professor and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. “Her recent book will likely become a widely used instructional tool for nutrition and fitness counseling programs across the country.”

“My professors and supervisors not only provided guidance in teaching and research, they also taught me a thing or two about professionalism and the importance of maintaining a work-life balance,” shares Clifford.

In addition to training the next generation of nutrition educators at Chico, Clifford has worked as a volunteer for service events associated with the city of Chico and Bidwell Presbyterian Church, where she initiated a church-based non-diet program and currently serves as an Elder.

Paying it forward

“I am completely humbled to be recognized as an Emerging Leader alumna. With this award comes a sense of responsibility to pay it forward by continuing to support students both within the College of Health and Human Sciences at Colorado State and at my own institution,” shares Clifford.

During Homecoming week, Clifford spent time with food science and human nutrition students, where she shared insight into her career and making the most of their time at CSU.

“While it is always wonderful to be recognized for accomplishments, what brings me the most joy is hearing from the students who felt supported during a vulnerable and challenging time in their lives, or hearing from those who found something I helped create to be a valuable resource,” says Clifford.

Three CHHS alumni award recipients were recognized at the College of Health and Human Sciences Homecoming Breakfast. Ann Vail and Nate Easley were recognized as recipients of the CHHS Outstanding Alumni Award.