Congratulations to the 2020 MS-AND Award Winners!

Outstanding Dietitian of the Year Award ~ Keba Laird

Keba Laird is the Nutrition Supervisor and School Health Coordinator for Clinton (MS) Public School District. In this role she works hard to help staff produce high quality meals for their customers that meet federal, state and local nutrition standards. Her manner with staff, students and school administrators is never austere or harsh, always open and acting as a mentor and guide.

In her role of School Health Coordinator for the school district, Mrs. Laird educates school staff, administration, which indirectly influences the students, about health and wellness practices. She also continues to educate herself, recently attaining the School Nutrition Specialist certification and she is currently enrolled in the Doctoral program for Education Leadership at Mississippi College.

Mrs. Laird serves as a preceptor for dietetic interns during their school food service rotations. The interns are able to experience hands-on school food service by working in the school kitchen. In addition, Mrs. Laird makes sure to involve the interns in nutrient analysis processes and administrative responsibilities involved in Child Nutrition Programs.

Emerging Dietetic Leader Award ~ Laura Ewoldt

Laura is the Staff Development Coordinator for Nutrition Systems based out of Jackson.  Although I do not work with Mrs. Ewoldt professionally, I understand that she takes great care when working with the patient population at work. She is a “team player” and ensures that her patients receive patient-centered medical care, so that patients know that they are a partner in their health care.

Peers say Laura exemplifies the wisdom and professionalism of an Emerging Dietetic Leader Awardee. She demonstrates concern for the promotion of optimal health and nutritional status of the population both her in professional work and volunteer service time. She is interested in teaching others, and, at the same time, understand that we should always be learning and improving ourselves.

Magnolia Award ~ Caroline Compretta

In 2015, Caroline decided to champion incorporating nutrition education into medical professional curricula at UMMC.  She wrote a grant for a mobile teaching kitchen, was awarded the grant, and developed a course based on evidence-based nutrition guidelines.  The course is now an official part of the medical school curriculum.  When the question came up of who would teach this course with Caroline, she insisted it be a registered dietitian. This may not sound very remarkable to most people, however, as a graduate student who has taken the same courses as first and second year medical students at UMMC, I can attest to the “nutrition” education that is provided.  Unfortunately, it has historically been given by a non-registered dietitian – typically a physician who does not have food and nutrition expertise.  Caroline understood from the beginning that registered dietitians are invaluable to the healthcare team and are qualified to teach evidence-based nutrition to other healthcare professionals as the food and nutrition experts.  Since Caroline’s mission started, a registered dietitian now teaches throughout the four-year medical school program and teaches in certain residency programs.  Caroline has always been vocal that this is not an effort to make doctors dietitians, it is an opportunity to give them basic, evidence-based nutrition education and introduce them to the importance of registered dietitians as part of a multidisciplinary healthcare team.

Additionally, Caroline has made an impact in the field of food and nutrition scholarship.  As a medical anthropologist, Caroline is interested in the social and cultural aspects of nutrition that impact food intake, access, and overall health.  Caroline has received numerous prestigious grants to better understand barriers to healthy food access and choice and has kept those dollars locally to impact our community.  She has developed meaningful relationships throughout the community through her work with Stew Pot ministries and Operation Shoestring here in Jackson, MS.

Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award~ Rebecca Butz

Rebecca is very passionate about the field of dietetics, and works hard to guide clients, patients, and people in their support systems to healthier lifestyles. She uses behavior modification techniques to help reshare thoughts, practices and habits of the people with whom she works.

Mrs. Butz is very active in MS-AND as the Chair of Education and Research. She attends meetings, asks very pertinent questions and volunteers for district events. Mrs. Butz also attends national meetings to advance her knowledge of food, nutrition and dietetics. She also understands the importance of networking in professional settings and sees it as an opportunity to learn from other professionals. For example, she helps to organize the Mississippi Renal RD biannual meetings, where renal dietitians discuss treating patients with chronic kidney disease or who are on dialysis and current practices in treatment plans.

Outstanding Dietetics Student of the Year Award in a Coordinated Program ~ Natalie Williams

Natalie was chosen as a Provost Scholar and a member of Kappa Omicron Nu National Honor Society. Her academic record gains elevation when you consider her vast volunteer efforts where she at an early age demonstrates a balance of school and community. Due to Natalie’s great academic efforts and endless hours of volunteer achievements, she was selected to the University of Mississippi’s Who’s Who Class of 2018, one of the university’s greatest honors.

Natalie never ceases to be anything but amazing with her wonderful leadership skills. During her undergraduate years, she volunteered for Manna and worked weekly for three years to provide meals to those in need. She was selected as the supervisor of this program where she was entrusted to plan, purchase, prepare, and delivers over 100 meals weekly while overseeing the other student volunteers.  During her supervised practice rotations, Natalie has continued to work well as a team member and has excelled as a leader of the group projects. She delegates with kindness while thinking outside of the box, she provides ideas, insight, and direction. She has been praised by her preceptors for her professional abilities and excellent work skills. She never falters on her responsibilities and can follow the guidelines to the letter. Natalie is the epitome of a what a registered dietitian needs to possess to be successful.

Outstanding Dietetics Student Award in a Dietetic internship ~ Jaclyn Wehrle

Jaclyn has always been a well-balanced student, participating in various community service activities and work experiences while consistently maintaining a 3.8 overall GPA in her undergraduate studies and a 3.97 overall GPA in her four semesters of graduate school.  Her work experience includes serving as a Research Assistant and Health is Golden Nutrition Assistant, and her community service involvement includes various activities like volunteering at Extra Table, Rouses Market, Mercy Chefs, and Eagle’s Nest Food Pantry. It is also noteworthy to say Jaclyn has received multiple academic distinctions including Most Outstanding Masters Student and Most Outstanding DPD Student. Jaclyn is a mature leader, comfortable participating in group settings, and extremely motivated to help make a difference in nutrition.

Jaclyn has been such a pleasure to have in the dietetic internship over these past two years. I have spoken of her academic accomplishment and previous work experience, but I would not want to forget her great personality, constant positive attitude, and bright smile. All of the qualities I have mentioned in this letter make her a great choice for this award. She is a true gem, and I am confident she will excel in any area of dietetics that she chooses. In summary, Jaclyn brings both enthusiasm and experience to the internship and I have no doubt that she will continue to succeed in the years to come. She is truly a pleasure to work with and all the Southern Miss Dietetic Interns feel that she is deserving of the award for Outstanding Dietetic Intern. I have attached her peer nominations on the next page. This will show how big of an impact Jaclyn has had on everyone around her.  I hope the committee will give her serious consideration for this award.

Outstanding Dietetics Student Award  in a DPD ~ Katelyn Tarr

With a GPA of 3.58 and double majors, it is easy to see that Katelyn excels academically. Inside the classroom, she is an organized and diligent student who demonstrates excellent nutrition knowledge, basic science knowledge, and critical thinking skills. There is a consensus among her instructors that her academic performance exceeds expectations. Furthermore, she has the ability to apply classroom concepts practically.

Katelyn is focused and determined outside the classroom as well. She has shown such excellent leadership ability through her volunteer work with our Sports Nutrition program that she was promoted to a Head Volunteer position in 2019. In this capacity, she coordinated schedules, assisted with inventory, and helped to ensure that appropriate food safety guidelines were followed inside a fueling station. Even in her early years in college, she stood out as being mature, with a high level of ability to work independently.

Outstanding Dietetics Educator Award – Janie Cole

Janie is currently the Director of the Coordinated Program in Dietetics at the University of Mississippi, Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management.   Janie always puts her students first and gives them sound counsel.  She is always student centered in her instruction and decision making.  Janie lives her life daily as a role model to her students. She brings many years of experience in nutrition and dietetics practice as well as certifications in Adult Weight Management, Adolescent and Children Weight Management, and ServSafe Instructor and Proctor to her students.

When Janie was in patient care, Janie was an excellent nutrition practitioner whose saw her residents as her first responsibility.  Since Janie has moved to training and educating students and interns as dietitians, she still takes that same responsibility seriously.  She wants her students and interns to be the best practitioner they can be.  As a mentor and role model, she works hard to make sure that her students have the background and work ethic necessary to provide quality professional work as a dietitian.  She brings invaluable working knowledge to the classroom and makes working in the field of dietetics fun.


The purpose of the Outstanding Dietitian of the Year Award (ODY) is to recognize the professional contributions of a Mississippi Dietitian to the Mississippi Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the profession of Dietetics.  The ODY recipient is published in a fall issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Criteria for Selection:

  1. Member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  2. A registered, licensed dietitian over the age of 30
  3. Demonstrates leadership to advance the profession of Dietetics legislation, research, education, clinical dietetics, career guidance, public relations, community nutrition, and management
  4. Active in the association in various aspects of leadership and service
  5. Demonstrates the Association’s goals in personal and professional life
  6. One who gives “above and beyond”: in service to the association’s projects and duties (attends more than 50% of district and MS-AND meetings)
  7. Noteworthy community service in nutrition/dietetics (such as speaking engagements, articles in newspapers, trade magazines, or other current reliable publications)


The purpose of the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award (RYDY) program is to recognize the competence and activities of younger dietitians in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (The Academy) and to encourage their continued participation in the Academy’s affairs.  This group will be an additional resource from which the leadership of the Academy will develop both at the district, state and national levels.  In addition to publishing the list of RYDYs in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, each awardee will receive a formal certificate of recognition for the President of the Academy.

Criteria for Selection:

  1. Member of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  2. Age limit as of April 1, 2018 deadline, 35 years or younger
  3. Active participation in the national, state or district association
  4. Not previously selected as a RYDY
  5. Demonstrated concern for the promotion of optimal health and nutritional status of the population
  6. Demonstrated leadership in legislation, research, education, management either in the association or through employment


This award was established by the 1996 Board of Directors. The Emerging Dietetics Leader Award (EDL) recognizes the competence and activities of members, regardless of their age, who are at the beginning of their dietetics careers. Members who receive this honor support the promotion of optimal health and nutritional status of the public through demonstrating leadership in legislation, research, education, management and other areas related to the profession.

Criteria for Selection:

  1. Member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  2. Initial practice experience not less than 5 years and not greater than 10 years (Interrupted careers or time periods not in practice, are not to be considered or rationed into the 5-10 years of professional practice experience)
  3. Active participation in the national, state or district association for at least 5 years
  4. Not previously selected as an RYDY
  5. Demonstrated concern for the promotion of optimal health and nutritional status of the population
  6. Demonstrated leadership, e.g., in legislation, research, education, management, etc., in the Academy, community or employment


The purpose of the Magnolia Award is to recognize an individual outside the profession of dietetics that demonstrates outstanding interest, support and contributions to the profession of dietetics.

Criteria for Selection:

  1. An individual outside the profession of dietetics that demonstrated outstanding interest, support and contributions to the profession of dietetics
  2. One who has made significant contributions to human welfare through a profession other than dietetics
  3. One who demonstrates good will through notable service in furthering the advancement of the profession of dietetics
  4. One who promotes nutrition in a manner as supported by scientific evidence and sound nutritional fact
  5. One who displays keen interest in improving nutrition for all persons of all ages


The purpose of the Outstanding Dietetics Educator Award is to recognize the teaching, mentoring, and leadership activities of faculty in ACEND®-accredited dietetics education programs.

Criteria for Selection:

  1. Member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  2. Educator and/or Program Director in an ACEND®-accredited dietetics education program:
    1. Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CP)
    2. Dietetic Internship (DI)
    3. Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD)
  3. Demonstrated Active Learning Strategy/ Student-centered Techniques
  4. Demonstrated Dietetics Mentoring Experience (Outside of role as faculty or director-not including current students/interns. Includes previous students/interns now considered professionals)
  5. Demonstrated leadership in Education and Dietetics; e.g., national, state, or district dietetic association activities, community service, honors received, scientific and professional presentations, publications, etc.


The purpose of the Outstanding Dietetics Student Award (ODSA) program is to recognize the emerging leadership and achievement of students in ACEND-accredited and approved dietetics education programs and encourage their participation in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Criteria for Selection:

  1. Student in an ACEND-accredited dietetics education program:
    1. Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CP)
    2. Dietetic Internship (DI) or
    3. Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD)
  2. Demonstration of academic achievement
  3. Demonstrate leadership and professional potential; e.g., honors, student dietetic association activities, community service activities, etc.