Five Questions with Dianne Stanton Ward

Dianne Stanton Ward enjoys simple pleasures.

Name: Dianne Stanton Ward
Position: Professor, Department of Nutrition
Time at the Gillings School: 19 years

 

Dianne strikes a pose. (Contributed photo)

Dianne strikes a pose. (Contributed photo)

What I do at UNC Gillings (and why I love it): I work on obesity prevention with children and families. I design and test interventions, and one of my more enduring successes is the NAP SACC (Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care) program. NAP SACC helps improve nutrition and physical activity environments in child care centers. The program exists in North Carolina and across the United States, and I’m now acting as a consultant to implement a version in the United Kingdom. NAP SACC has been around for more than 15 years, and we recently launched an online component called Go NAP SACC.

What I like about my work is its endless variety: I get to be part of a lot of different projects, I’m able to teach and advise students, and I have opportunities to do outreach work with the local community. I never get bored!

 

It’s a coincidence, but: two former advisees credit me with introducing them to their spouses. [Editor’s note: You can read about one of these alumni, Sara Benjamin Neelon, in the sixth story at this link.] I definitely wasn’t attempting to play matchmaker!

With Heather Wasser, we hired her now-husband John as an administrative assistant back when part of the nutrition department was located on the fourth floor of McGavran-Greenberg Hall. He sat at a sort of “outpost” desk in the middle of a large room, and students used to work in the space, too. I think sheer proximity introduced him and Heather, and then they discovered they had all kinds of common interests. John, who’s a prolific musician, still works on staff at UNC, and Heather is now part of the Gilling School’s nutrition faculty! It’s always a pleasure to watch a student evolve into a teacher and researcher in their own right.

 

When I’m not at work: I like to be outside. It’s a joy to garden and keep my flowers thriving. My partner and I also enjoy charting birds. We live out in the country, so we have several areas where we’ve put up feeders. Every month, we see different species come through. The cardinal is a year-round constant, but other birds we only see seasonally as they migrate. Sometimes we’ll notice a shift in the usual pattern and think, “What happened? What was different this time?”

I also read a lot. My partner has a doctoral degree in English and quite a lot of books come in and out of our lives. We read paper books and e-books, which I struggled to embrace until I realized how much more storage space we had around our house when the books were electronic!

 

My favorite thing to eat: is very simple meals. I prefer food in a mostly unaltered state. We eat a lot of grilled seafood, perhaps with a salad, or we might roast a chicken with some vegetables. I’d always prefer to eat at home rather than in a restaurant, and what I enjoy most is honest food that tastes like what it is.

 

An adventure I’ve had: was perhaps more of a misadventure during a recent work trip. The last time I traveled to the United Kingdom, I left my suitcase behind on a high-speed train. I got to the hotel in London, looked down and realized it wasn’t with me. There was no way to get it back before I had to deliver an important, named lecture the next afternoon in Bristol, so the only solution was to go shopping. The thing is, my hotel was in the museum district and I had to work with what I could find in the few stores available to me – T.J. Maxx and H&M.

You don’t realize how much goes into a professional wardrobe until you have to quickly build it from scratch: clothes, shoes, make-up, hair products, everything! I pulled it off for the lecture, though, and the funny thing is I still wear some of those items. I think about Bristol every time I put them on.


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