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Inside the mind of researcher Jenny Jackson

Jenny Jackson

Clinical Assistant Professor and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Jenny Jackson, originally joined the college in 2005 and assumed her current role in September 2017. Prior to her current position, Jenny worked as a nutrition educator at the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council and as an instructor in the OSU Dietetics Program. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Animal Sciences, a master’s degree in Nutrition and Food Management, and her PhD in Public Health from Oregon State. Following her PhD, she was a post-doctoral research associate with a focus on nutritional epidemiology. 

What made you decide to get into the nutrition field? Is there one specific moment that inspired your career path?

“Healthy eating and physical activity were part of our family value system when I was growing up. In that sense, my career path was inspired – early and often – by my parents. Years after completing my undergraduate degree in Animal Sciences, I decided to further my education. I had always been interested in health promotion and wanted to pursue a ‘helping profession.’ Nutrition and public health were a perfect fit. My experience as a graduate teaching assistant during my master’s degree program inspired my passion for teaching and research.”

What does your current research entail?

“My research is focused on the promotion of healthy eating and physical activity behaviors across the lifespan. Recent projects include a community-based study with the aim to understand barriers and opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity among children and families living in rural Oregon communities. Currently, I am working with colleagues to examine associations between food insecurity and physical functioning among U.S. older adults and among people living with HIV.”

What sparked your interest in this topic?

“As a registered dietitian nutritionist, my previous work involved providing nutrition education for the public. Although I am a firm believer in the value of education, it became clear to me that many other factors affect the ability of children and families to make healthy lifestyle choices. Exploring these factors in rural communities offers an opportunity to learn more about how where we live impacts our health behaviors, and allows development of place-based health promotion strategies.”

How does your work make a difference?

“Food insecurity is a public health issue that affects the health and well-being of too many people in the United States, including our elderly population. Understanding the relationship between food insecurity and physical functioning will allow us to develop strategies to help older adults experience a better quality of life as they age.”

What’s next for you?

“As part of my new position as clinical assistant professor in the nutrition program, I am responsible for developing experiential learning opportunities for nutrition majors as well as non-majors who choose to take nutrition courses. It is very exciting to help lead the effort to increase student engagement by providing opportunities to learn about food and nutrition through hands-on and service-based experiences.”

What is the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it? 

“Whenever possible, always say yes to new opportunities. Several of my mentors have offered this advice and it has proven to be invaluable!”

What advice would you give to current students and recent alums?

“Life is a journey. Take your time and follow your heart.”

What are your favorite activities outside of work? 

“Any outdoor activity! Favorites include mountain biking, hiking, Nordic skiing and running. I also enjoy eating, reading, gardening and spending time with friends and family.”

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