Faculty Member Wins Outstanding Dietetic Educator Award

Kathy Knight lauded at state and regional level

Kathy Knight

OXFORD, Miss. – Kathy Knight, associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management at the University of Mississippi, has been recognized as the 2018 Outstanding Dietetic Educator in a Coordinated Program at the state and regional level. 

This distinction is awarded annually by the Nutrition and Dietetic Educator and Preceptor practice group in association with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Before qualifying for the South Central Region Award, Knight received the Outstanding Dietetic Educator award for the state of Mississippi.

She was nominated by colleague Laurel Lambert, also an associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management.

“I met Dr. Knight in 1987 when I attended my first North Mississippi Dietetics Association meeting here in Oxford,” Lambert said.

At that time, Knight had earned her bachelor’s degree in biology at Ole Miss and a master’s degree in nutrition at Mississippi State University. By 1989, Knight earned a doctorate in nutrition from Auburn University and began teaching as an assistant professor at UM.

Throughout her professional career, she has been an innovator, mentor and leader in education and dietetics. The NDEP practice group considers nominees’ experience in each of these roles when determining the recipient of the Outstanding Dietetics Educator Award.

Knight founded the hospitality management program at Ole Miss and wrote the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management’s planning document and application for the master’s and doctoral programs to the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

Knight’s research grants have funded several graduate students, and she was once a writer for questions on the registered dietitian exam. She also co-wrote a manual for food preparations laboratories with Lambert.

Knight served as the department’s interim chair when both the didactic program and coordinated program in dietetics were undergoing re-accreditation and accreditation. The hospitality management program also was going through accreditation at that time.

Melinda Valliant, an Ole Miss graduate and associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management, has known Knight since 1987. Over the years, she has seen how Knight’s leadership has been influential in the department.

“Dr. Knight was my professor in several classes,” Valliant said. “She has been part of a department that has gone through several drastic changes as a result of both the evolution of the profession and department.”

Knight also started a service learning component in the department. For more than 30 years, students in her nutrition classes have worked at The Pantry and the Ole Miss Food Bank.

She has served as chair of seven master’s thesis committees and six undergraduate Honors College thesis committees. She also mentored three McNair students, an honors program for African-American students.

Kathy Knight (center) receives the 2018 Mississippi Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Outstanding Dietetic Educator Award. Submitted photo

While Knight’s professional experience distinguishes her from other professors, Lambert said Knight can also be set apart from other professors by her sense of humor and her innate ability to connect with students.

Valliant offered similar praise and described Knight as a genuine and humble professional who truly cares about making everyone she encounters feel important. Valliant said she and students can learn from Knight’s driven, goal-oriented nature while enjoying her humor, which shines through almost any situation.

“Dr. Knight has taught me that hard work pays off,” said Valliant. “She is an excellent teacher and colleague. She can interject humor into most any situation and that makes working for her fun.”

Tiffany Shirley, a first-year graduate student from Corinth who took Knight’s advanced nutrition class, said Knight provided her class with unique learning opportunities and was always looking for ways to help them. She said Knight makes a noticeable effort to be considerate of her students’ work and life balance.

“She really wants to see students succeed as a whole person, not just academically,” Shirley said. “She cares about students’ well-being but teaches so much about the subject area all the while.”