Skip to main content

Meet the Grads: Michelle Duvall

For more than 20 years, Michelle Duvall’s career in the banking industry focused on assessing loan risks and that, unfortunately, often led to disappointing news for applicants.Michelle Duvall wearing a mortarboard and a blue dress

Four years ago, she said enough was enough.

“I spent a lot of time finding reasons why loan applications shouldn’t go through. That often meant people were not able to buy their dream home,” she said. “Instead of being the one to disappoint people, I really wanted to find a way to help others and find meaning and fulfillment in a career.”

Fueled by a passion for science and healthcare, as well as the experience of helping her daughter cope with Celiac disease, Duvall returned to college to pursue a degree in human nutrition and foods

“It was challenging helping her to learn which foods she could eat and which ones she couldn't,” Duvall said. “Many foods that you wouldn't think have gluten in them actually do.”

Duvall acknowledged there were social and emotional challenges to overcome as well.

“Kids don't want to feel different or be singled out in social situations based on what they can or can't eat,” she said. “Imagine going to a birthday party at the age of 11 and not being able to eat pizza or cake.”

The bottom line for her?

“I want to help other people like my daughter as they navigate dietary restrictions and lifestyle changes to improve their health.”

A December 2020 graduate of West Virginia University, she is a member of the classes being honored during commencement ceremonies May 15-16. Duvall is currently part of the WVU Dietetic Internship.

What has been your most meaningful experience at WVU?  
Being able to share the college experience with my son (who is currently a Junior here at WVU) was a really cool moment. We actually had two classes together (Physics); we were even lab partners. It made those classes much more bearable as Physics is not my favorite subject.

If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be and why? 
I’m honestly not sure that I would. I love to try and see others’ perspectives, but I really like who I am at this point in my life, and wouldn’t want to be anyone else. 

What is one thing you would have done differently during college? 
I wish that I would have relaxed more when I started college many years ago in my 20’s. I was very hard on myself, a perfectionist. I have since learned to relax a bit more and to just do the very best I can without trying to be “perfect”. 

What one piece of advice would you share with future students? 
Make connections with both your classmates and also professors. Having a supportive group of people surrounding you is such an important part of this journey. They can help lift you up when you struggle and celebrate your triumphs.  

Your final year of college obviously didn’t go as planned. How did you stay focused? What lessons did you learn? 
I knew that my last semester would be a challenge, but keeping my eye on the degree and knowing that I would be able to finally call myself a college graduate was my main motivator. I learned that even though I am a non-traditional student, I really missed being on campus with other students in person. I look forward to getting back more in person in the fall.