Outstanding Ph.D. grad completes her dissertation in community nutrition during the COVID-19 pandemic

Savannah Hobbs
Savannah Hobbs

Savannah Hobbs is a doctoral student graduating from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University. After growing up in Nebraska, Hobbs was inspired to come to CSU by the innovative and interdisciplinary work on campus in community-based nutrition.

“Pursuing my doctoral degree in nutrition has reinforced my enthusiasm for research and teaching and provided opportunities to acquire innovative knowledge and skills to engage with multidisciplinary teams of students and faculty,” said Hobbs.

Hobbs has published four of her research articles with an additional two in the publication pipeline and four in various levels of preparation.  She has presented five abstracts at national meetings and has participated in the Graduate Student Showcase, CHHS Research Day, Vice President for Research’s 3-Minute Challenge, and the department’s 3-Minute Research Challenge.

As a result of her academic and research success, Hobbs was recognized nationally with the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, Higher Education Division, Student Research Award for 2020. She was also a finalist for the Vice President for Research, Leadership Fellowship in 2019, and she received the College of Health and Human Sciences Excellence in Research and Scholarship Award for her poster in CSU’s Graduate Student Showcase.

Completing her dissertation

Hobbs says her degree was one of the most challenging things she had to do. After working full time as an elementary and high school teacher while taking prerequisite courses, Hobbs came to CSU to join the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition Ph.D. program.

“Throughout all of this, I have been able to rely on mentors and colleagues to help me overcome these obstacles and be successful in my program,” said Hobbs. “I have been very fortunate to be a part of the Health Behaviors Lab and Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. It is within these groups that I have found support from my community, friends, and mentors.”

Hobbs has drawn on her teaching and social work backgrounds to contribute to community-based, engaged research.  She was instrumental in coordinating study activities at the Bruce Randolph School in Denver.  Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation this project aimed to mentor high school students to facilitate healthy eating and activity in their community. Additionally, she was the lead teacher working with preschoolers in two rural communities as part of an obesity prevention intervention.

To adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hobbs was forced to pause all her study components for her dissertation. Her dissertation research involved the design and implementation of a self-care program for mothers of preschoolers to promote health and obesity prevention efforts within the family system. Parts of her intervention including workshops and health coaching sessions were delivered electronically when the pandemic made travel impossible.

“This has taught me a great deal about flexibility and creativity in the face of outside influences that might impact research efforts within the community,” said Hobbs. “I was able to adapt my final study and move most components online, but my data collection was greatly impacted.”

Helping fight food insecurity

During her time at CSU, Hobbs served as the vice president of the Graduate Student Council and as a founding member of the Agricultural Research Development and Education Center’s food security project.

As part of the project, Hobbs helped organize a new garden that contributed roughly 2,000 pounds of produce to help fight food insecurity at CSU through the Rams Against Hunger program. She also volunteered for the Northern Colorado Red Cross and Project Homeless Connect.

Plans after graduating

After completing her degree, Hobbs hopes to become a tenure-track professor and teach public health nutrition courses while researching determinants of health, health equality, and food access.

“I will miss the collaborative environment in which teams work together and the supports and resources available to students,” said Hobbs. “I will also miss CSU’s close proximity to the mountains!”

The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.