Rachel Wattick, a human nutrition and foods major, is one of nine 2018 Outstanding Seniors honored for academic and outreach excellence by the West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.
As she prepares to graduate, Wattick, a Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, native, recalls
two meaningful experiences at WVU that helped define her academic and career goals.
She traveled to Nicaragua her sophomore year with WVU’s
Global Medical and Dental Brigades to provide medical and dental care, and construct
public health infrastructure to prevent illnesses seen in clinics. The life changing
trip opened her eyes to the importance of a holistic approach to healthcare.
Conducting research with
Melissa Olfert, associate professor of human nutrition and foods, in the
Lifestyle Intervention Research Lab combined Wattick’s two interest areas – nutrition
and public health – and helped her uncover a passion for community-based research.
Wattick plans to pursue a doctorate in social and behavioral sciences at the WVU
School of Public Health.
What advice would you give to freshmen?
It’s okay to not know exactly where you fit in, and the time will come where you
find that out and everything falls into place.
Why do you think you’re one of the college’s top outstanding seniors?
This is a difficult question, but I think it is because I made sure to get a variety
of experiences. While I maintained good grades, I realized that wasn’t the best way
to learn or make an impact during my undergraduate career. I think I’m fortunate
because I found my true passion, and everything accelerated from there. Because I
really enjoy everything I am a part of with research, outreach, and leadership positions,
I dedicate myself to it and I think that makes the difference.
If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be and why?
I would trade places with this chef named Dan Barber. He is highly respected for
his farm to table approach on a huge scale and he has acres of land that he produces
the food for his restaurant on. I think that’s really admirable and innovative and
I would probably want to be him for more than one day. I really enjoy what I do now
but in the future I want to just be a chef and use an approach like that.
What problem do you want to solve?
I want to solve the way we approach mental health. I think that our current solutions
are not effective and there is such a huge stigma around mental health disorders.
These disorders are such complex, multifaceted issues and they require a multifaceted
approach to solve them. For example, diet plays a huge role in how we feel mentally
but we often focus on just the physical aspects. I would like to deeply
investigate the role of nutrition on mental health and use it in conjunction with other therapies to create real, sustainable solutions.