Fellows

Our New Perspectives Fellowship aims to provide mentorship, training, and a $15,000 seed grant to expand the number of researchers conducting research on healthy food choice using behavioral economic strategies. The Fellowship program seeks to provide greater opportunity for individuals whose backgrounds or unique circumstances enable them to better understand populations and communities historically underrepresented in academic research. We encourage candidates from lower income backgrounds or geographies, and ethnic and racial minority groups to apply.

Recipients of the Fellowships are employed by a university, college, or research-based organization. Once selected, Fellows are mentored by an established researcher associated with the Center. Along with the mentorship, the provided seed grants will enable recipients to initiate an original research project at their home institutions, while benefiting from the resources and networks available through the Center. Recipients of the Fellowship are able to attend training sessions, meetings, webinars, and other events offered by the Center.


Meet the Current Fellows:

image_7350582Carolyn Barnes, PhD
Assistant Professor
Duke University

Carolyn has a unique background that makes her an exceptional candidate for the BECR New Perspectives Fellowship.  Influenced by her personal experiences with the complexities of poverty, she has a strong interest in understanding the intersection of poverty and social policy. In working with the BECR Center, Carolyn will conduct a series of listening sessions with Women, Infant, and Children Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, grocery retailers and manufacturers, and frontline WIC and SNAP staff members (state and local level) to learn about how to increase the cost-effectiveness of WIC and other USDA programs intended to improve nutrition, food security, and the health of Americans.  Using the information gleaned from this research, she will work with BECR to design culturally and contextually informed experiments that utilize behavioral economics methods.

Mentor: Kelly Brownell


Betsy Anderson SteevesElizabeth Anderson-Steeves, PhD, RD
Assistant Professor of Public Health Nutrition
University of Tennessee
HEALTHE Lab

Coming from a small town in the Appalachian Region of Southwest Ohio, Betsy Anderson Steeves conducts environmental interventions in retail food settings in rural, Appalachian communities in East Tennessee.  Given her interest in applying behavioral economics methods in these rural communities as well as her personal background, we have selected her to receive one of our New Perspective Fellowships.  Under the mentorship of the Center, Betsy will conduct experiments using her mobile food-purchasing laboratory to gain insight into purchasing behaviors.  A unique feature of the mobile lab space is that she has the flexibility to manipulate the “store” environment freely to design and test intervention strategies that can be translated into actual store interventions.

Mentors: Alice Ammerman, Molly De Marco, Gavan Fitzsimmons


Stephanie Jilcott Pitts, PhD
Associate Professor
East Carolina University

Stephanie was born, raised, and currently lives in rural eastern North Carolina. Her life experiences in rural areas provide the ideal grounding for her BECR New Perspectives Fellowship project. As a working mother of two, she has a keen interest in learning more about how both the “in-store” food environment and the online food environment can shape healthier food choices, particularly among caregivers of young children. Stephanie plans to partner with store owners to examine the effectiveness of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Expert Panel for Minimum Stocking Levels and Marketing Strategies for Retail Food Stores to promote healthier purchases among rural and at-risk community members. She also plans to study the dietary impact of online grocery shopping among rural Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) participants, with the hypothesis that online shopping will reduce “pester-power” and exposure to impulse purchasing options, leading to a healthier purchasing profile among WIC participants.

Mentors: Shu Wen Ng, Mary Story


IMG_0179Tashara Leak, PhD, RD
Postdoctoral Scholar
University of California, Berkley

Tashara Leak conducts equity-focused action research that aims to reduce food poverty and improve dietary behaviors among economically challenged populations. Her passion for addressing food poverty, which disproportionally occurs in communities of color, stems from personal experiences growing up in Durham, NC where she observed racial and economic disparities in healthy food access. Funding from the BECR Center will support a study that examines the feasibility of altering the food choice architecture in corner stores located in resource-limited neighborhoods. By engaging, educating, and empowering corner store owners as choice architects, findings from this study will inform future interventions and will be used to advocate for policy change.

Mentor: Peter Ubel