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Who We Are

Dennis Savaiano, Director

Dr. Savaiano of Purdue University will serve as NC-NECE director and research coordinator. He will conduct the proposal peer review and selection in conjunction with the center’s Evaluation Consultation Group (ECG). Once projects are funded, Dr. Savaiano and the ECG will provide oversight for all awarded grants.

Dr. Savaiano is the Virginia C. Meredith Professor of Nutrition Policy at Purdue University and liaison for Purdue Community Health Engagement Programs for Indiana’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). He is also the administrative advisor for the USDA Regional Research Project NC1193, “Assessing and addressing individual and environmental factors that influence eating behavior of young adults.” He has served in this role since 1994 for this and previous related projects (NC219, NC1028). He has been working on food behavior evaluation strategies with Indiana FNPs for the past three years. He also was principal investigator for the USDA IFAFS grant, “Improving Bone Health in Adolescence Through Targeted Behavioral Intervention” (an eight-state collaborative research program from 2000 to 2004). In addition, he served as dean for the Purdue College of Consumer and Family Sciences from 1995 to 2010 where he developed health promotion initiatives in CFS Extension. Indiana now includes nearly 20 health promotion positions in Extension.

Dennis Savaiano

Marci Scott, Associate Director – Implementation

As associate director for NC-NECE implementation, Dr. Marci Scott of Michigan Fitness Foundation will create and manage the affiliate membership system and will oversee development and distribution of recruitment materials and strategies. She will work with all 12 states in the region to make sure that partners invited to the affiliate membership system represent the diverse researchers and implementers found within the region.

Dr. Scott is the interim co-president and CEO and vice president for Health Programs at Michigan Fitness Foundation. In this capacity, she is responsible for leading grants and projects that total over $20M each year in health, nutrition and fitness, including over $17M in SNAP-Ed funds for Michigan. She has an extensive career working in local public health and dietetics education and significant experience in leading teams that evaluate nutrition education programs.

Marci Scott

Jo Britt-Rankin, Associate Director – Communications

Dr. Jo Britt-Rankin of University of Missouri will be responsible for developing the center website, which will allow affiliate members to discover potential partners for research activities. She will coordinate the monthly email blasts, webinars and periodic face-to-face meetings for the affiliate members. The purpose of these communication venues is to allow affiliates to gain partners, tools, resources and professional development that enable them to move existing SNAP-Ed and EFNEP programs from best practices and practice-tested to evidence-based interventions.

Dr. Britt-Rankin has over 20 years of experience in Extension outreach and has led the implementation of Missouri’s Family Nutrition Program (EFNEP) since 1998. Missouri EFNEP reaches over 225,000 persons each year, including children in over 65 percent of Missouri’s school districts. Dr. Britt-Rankin has also led the development and continual improvement of the website, which Missourians now visit more than 1,400 times per day to get nutrition and other lifestyle information. She has extensive grant management experience, managing over 250 faculty and staff statewide and approximately $12M in grant funded projects each year.

Jo Britt-Rankin

Dawn Contreras, Associate Director – Center Assessment

Dr. Dawn Contreras of Michigan State University will coordinate ongoing center input and affiliate member feedback. The purpose of the feedback, which includes online focus groups and member surveys, will be to continually assess regional needs from the perspective of researchers and implementers and use that input to develop tools and resources that add to the extant literature and expand the current repertoire of evidenced-based curricula available to SNAP-Ed and/or EFNEP implementing organizations.

Dr. Contreras directs the Michigan State University Extension's Health and Nutrition Institute, where she supervises 180 health and nutrition Extension staff members and manages over $13M in grant-funded projects. She has worked in community-based health and nutrition education for over 30 years. In addition to other tasks and serving on the ECG, Dr. Contreras will conduct process evaluation throughout the project to keep the team progressing towards the objectives. The interim results of the process evaluation will help the team make mid-course corrections, where necessary. The process evaluation will use the project timeline and logic model as anchors, collecting data at six-month intervals.

Dawn Contreras

Steering Committee

Name Institution Institutional Position
Pat Aune United Tribes Technical College Director
Trina Barno University of Minnesota Program Leader, Extension
Patricia Bebo Ohio State University Leader, Community Nutrition Programs (EFNEP/SNAP-Ed)
Linda Boeckner University of Nebraska Extension Nutrition Specialist
Amber Canto University of Wisconsin-Extension State Coordinator, Wisconsin Nutrition Education Program
Kathleen Cullinen Michigan Fitness Foundation Director of Network Programs
Christine Hradek Iowa State University EFNEP and SNAP-Ed Coordinator
Sarah Jones Michigan Fitness Foundation Project Manager
Melissa Maulding Purdue University Director, Extension EFNEP and SNAP-Ed Programs
Jennifer McCaffrey University of Illinois Assistant Dean, Family and Consumer Sciences
Megan Ness North Dakota State University Program Coordinator and Specialist, EFNEP/FNP
Paula Peters Kansas State University Assistant Director, Family and Consumer Sciences, K-State Research and Extension
Sandra Procter Kansas State University Coordinator, Kansas EFNEP and Kansas SNAP-Ed
Suzanne Stluka South Dakota State University EFNEP and SNAP-Ed Coordinator