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Oklahoma State University

Student Spotlight: Christine Walters, nutritional sciences, Ph.D.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Walters was awarded the Winterfeldt Graduate Fellowship for Research and the D.E. Jorgenson Professional Development Award for the 2018-19 academic year.

Scholarships. The importance of this financial support for students cannot be overstated. Large and small, the monetary support for students pursuing their academic goals and life dreams motivate, inspire and offer relief from the pressure of paying for college.

In this story from the 2018 Human Sciences magazine, nutritional sciences doctoral student Christine Walters shares how scholarships have made a difference and opened doors for her.

Christine Walters will use her awards to make a difference in the world.

“I see scholarships as a personal investment,” nutritional sciences doctoral student Christine Walters said. “Someone else worked hard to make this money, and now they’re investing in me to do something great.”

Walters began her education at Ohio State University. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in medical dietetics and a minor in integrative approaches to health and wellness, she knew she wanted to continue learning. One of Walters’ professors was an Oklahoma State alumnus who recommended his alma mater. She reached out to Barbara Stoecker, OSU Regents Professor in nutritional sciences. A meeting with Stoecker, who now serves as Walters’ adviser, convinced Walters that OSU was the right place for her.

Walters didn’t move to Oklahoma right away. In order to save money for graduate school, she initially worked as a dietitian in Ohio. She didn’t want to go deep into debt as she pursued graduate education. Walters’ family instilled a strong work ethic in her early on.

“My father built himself financially from nothing and broke what could have been a cycle of poverty,” she explained.

After building up a small nest egg, Walters set out for Stillwater.

Once her savings were spent, she tried to find work as a part-time dietitian, but the inflexible schedule conflicted with her classes, so she began babysitting instead. Walters has always loved children, and babysitting provided the flexibility she needed — but on the other hand, she found it distracted her from her studies. Thankfully, aid came her way in the form of scholarships from the College of Human Sciences. 

For 2018-19, Walters was awarded the Winterfeldt Graduate Fellowship for Research and the D.E. Jorgenson Professional Development Award.

“The burden of paying for my education has been lightened through the generous support of others,” she said.

The funds not only allowed Walters to continue her education, they fully funded a research trip to eastern Africa. Walters’ interests center on international nutrition with a focus on low-income countries. In 2016, she traveled to Malawi to study malnutrition in pregnant adolescents. While there, she became actively involved with the local community to determine what infrastructure was already in place to combat this issue. Walters strives to develop evidence-based approaches and sustainable solutions. The research was done in partnership with Child Legacy International and has been presented at Experimental Biology and Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior conferences. She is currently working toward publishing the data in a peer-reviewed journal.

“(Christine) is committed to research and has the potential to truly make a difference in people’s lives,” Stoecker said.

Walters, who also has a master’s degree in nutrition from Oklahoma State, has begun planning her next international trip. This time, she is headed to Uganda to study maternal mental health and its relationship to child-feeding practices as well as malnutrition among refugees in resettlement camps.

Walters
Walters is a resource for fellow graduate assistants, inviting them to observe her discussion section before they are sent out to conduct their own.

But Walters’ impact spreads much further than her research pursuits. She also works as a graduate teaching assistant, saying she fell in love with teaching the moment she stepped into the classroom.

Her love for teaching is mirrored in the students’ admiration for her. Deana Hildebrand, an associate professor in nutritional sciences, has great respect for Walters’ high standards. According to Hildebrand, students have described Walters as “having a positive attitude, dedicated, knowledgeable and approachable.”

Walters is a resource for fellow graduate assistants, inviting them to observe her discussion section before they are sent out to conduct their own.

As her career continues, Walters said she would like to combine her passions for research, international nutrition, teaching and travel by creating an international nutrition class with a study abroad component.

Walters will undoubtedly make her mark in the field of nutritional sciences. She is grateful for the scholarship support and the opportunity to pursue her passion, and she encourages her students to do the same.

“There are many different journeys you can take; take the one that pulls on your heart strings.”

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