Through teaching, research, and service, our faculty are making an impact on student lives, on our community, and on the world. Here’s a look at two College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences faculty members who are working side by side with students to do research that is improving health and education in our community and beyond.
Long before obesity became a chronic American epidemic, Hollie Raynor was researching ways to prevent and treat it. Raynor, an associate professor of nutrition, combines her training in both psychology and nutrition to research and develop methods to prevent and treat obesity.
Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, believes Raynor’s specialized research puts her in a unique and important position in the field of nutrition.
“Hollie’s research on the area of nutrition, and its relationship to obesity is cutting-edge science and is providing essential information regarding the dietary habits of members of vulnerable populations,” Rider said.
Raynor began her college education in nutrition, but soon learned that if she wanted to make an impact, she would have to expand her studies.
“I found that while I had a good understanding of medical nutrition therapy, I didn’t know how to change behavior,” Raynor said. “Telling people how important it is to eat healthy doesn’t make people eat healthy.”
With this revelation, Raynor added psychology classes on top of her nutrition curriculum and continued to do so as she pursued her master’s in public health nutrition. Noting how several papers on prevention and treatment of obesity were written by psychologists, Raynor capped her formal education with a doctorate in clinical psychology.
Raynor began work at UT in 2007 and started the Healthy Eating and Activity Laboratory soon after her arrival. The lab, HEAL for short, conducts research on factors that can be used to improve behavioral obesity prevention and treatment programs for children and adults.
Raynor hopes the research she does with HEAL can have an impact in East Tennessee and beyond.
“We hope that we are able to assist people in East Tennessee to develop healthy lifestyles, and we also want to help dietitians understand the science of behavior change,” Raynor said. “Like any other researcher, I hope to assist in moving the field forward in successful prevention and treatment of obesity.”
“I’ve always found if the teacher focuses more on the student, everyone gets more accomplished,” Skinner said.
Skinner and his graduate students work with school systems near UT, focusing their efforts on addressing problems that professional educators identify. His research specialty is preventing and remedying academic and behavioral problems in K-12 students.
Although he and his students work with schools around UT, the findings from their studies impact the research community and schools across the nation. Those who benefit from his work sometimes let him know.
“Being noticed by other researchers is nice, but it’s more gratifying to hear what we’re doing is impacting the schools,” Skinner said. “It’s nice to get those e-mails and phone calls from schools that say, ‘We read this paper, we tried it, it works great.’ It makes our day.”
His research earned a lifetime achievement award from the American Psychological Association’s school psychology division. It is the highest award that division offers.
Although Skinner is very proud of his award, he acknowledges the efforts of his students. Oftentimes, Skinner encourages his students to do enough work to be the first author listed on the research reports.
“Whereas a lot of people want to be the most-published, I want to be the professor who publishes the most students,” Skinner said.
Rider feels Skinner’s student-first mentality sets him apart from many others.
“What makes Chris outstanding is the manner in which he mentors his students, including providing them opportunities to participate in various research endeavors,” Rider said. “His disposition toward students and the needs of his department is uncompromising and has helped to make him the excellent teacher, scholar, and colleague he truly is.”
C O N T A C T :
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)