Focus on Faculty
Rick Lewis, the UGA Foundation Professor in Family and Consumer Sciences, integrates his research with teaching to inspire students and help them develop independence and the skills to be lifelong learners.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UGA in psychology and foods and nutrition, respectively, and I received my Ph.D. in human nutrition and foods at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Today, I am the UGA Foundation Professor in Family and Consumer Sciences in the department of foods and nutrition. My primary responsibilities are teaching and research.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
In 1986, I was hired by UGA as an assistant professor with Cooperative Extension, working on programs related to weight control for adults and healthy lifestyles for children. Inspiring experiences working in public health nutrition in rural North Carolina provided motivation for seeking the extension faculty position. In addition, the department of foods and nutrition was recognized as a strong nutrition department.
What are your favorite courses and why?
My favorite class is “Nutrition Throughout the Lifecycle.” This split-level class with seniors and graduate students addresses issues that are relevant to the students personally and professionally. It is not uncommon for family members of a student to be curious about the class material, such as a sister asking about the benefits of breast-feeding or grandparents inquiring about nutritional supplements. As a result of the direct applicability of the class material to the students, they are attentive and inspired to comprehend the material.
What interests you about your field?
The field of nutrition is directly relevant to the public in everyday life. In addition, the field of nutrition is pertinent to many other disciplines such as kinesiology, public health, biochemistry and food science. As a result, interesting collaborations evolve.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
Receiving the inaugural Bill and June Flatt Outstanding Faculty Research Award and several teaching and advising awards have been remarkable achievements for me at UGA. The opportunity to train graduate students in the field of sports nutrition and to contribute to the research training of undergraduate and graduate students also has been a high point. Throughout my career I have been engaged in obesity-related research, outreach and statewide initiatives, including the UGA Obesity Initiative. It is very rewarding to observe Cliff Baile’s successes with the UGA Obesity Initiative.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
Students are more engaged in the classroom when they are confident the professor is knowledgeable and passionate about the subject matter. Part of my teaching approach is to communicate my research findings and the scholarship process to the students as part of class projects to generate enthusiasm and encourage critical thinking.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you
It is my desire that students will become passionate about the field of nutrition and develop independence and the skills to be lifelong learners. Ideally, students will be able to apply what they have learned to academic, clinical, public health or industry settings.
Describe your ideal student.
Self-motivation, passion for the field, empathy and the desire to contribute to the team effort in the laboratory are the qualities of an ideal student.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
Running and hiking the trails at Lake Herrick and the Botanical Garden are probably two of my most favorite things to do on campus. When I have extra time during the workday, I like to walk from my building on South Campus to North Campus or visit the Trial Gardens.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
Beyond my professional commitments with UGA, I like to spend time with my family, play music, read and walk trails.
Community/civic involvement includes….
Early in my career I developed service-learning projects to collaborate with the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, the Athens Area Homeless Shelter, Northeast Health District and other local agencies. These service-learning projects exposed the students and myself to needs in the community. As a result of these activities, I became significantly involved with the Athens Run/Walk for Home, which raised considerable funds for many of the local community agencies. Presently, I serve as a member of a local foundation with a goal to improve the health and wellness of citizens in Athens-Clarke County and surrounding counties.
I enjoy reading books on exploration and history. Alfred Lansing’s description of Ernest Shackleton’s voyage to Antarctica in “Endurance” is an example of one of those books.
Proudest moment at UGA?
One of my proudest moments at UGA was when my wife, my mother and my sister were all able to attend a reception where I was recognized as the UGA Foundation Professor in Family and Consumer Sciences. However, I am proudest when my students receive university or professional awards or are successful in their careers.
(Published Jan. 19, 2014)