UT Austin Plan II Alumna Joins Staff of First Lady

Below is a recent story from the UT Austin Plan II site:

Marissa Nichole Duswalt, a spring 2010 Plan II Honors and Dean’s Scholars graduate in Nutritional Science (Registered Dietitian) will transition from her current position in the Office of the Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture to join the White House Office of the First Lady as Associate Director of Policy and Events for the Let’s Move! initiative.

The goal of the Let’s Move! initiative is to reverse childhood obesity, which impacts one in three American children. The initiative seeks to engage every sector of society in this effort, as everyone has a role to play to ensure that America’s kids have the opportunity to reach a healthy adulthood.

Duswalt says she is “honored to serve in this new role for this cause, as it has been a passion of mine since entering college at UT.  As an undergraduate in the Plan II Honors Program as well as the Coordinated Program in Dietetics, I had the privilege of studying this critical issue across multiple disciplines. That academic path prepared me for working in government, and specifically on this issue, which embodies the intersection of science, economics, culture, and policy.  It is a true honor to join Let’s Move!, and I am grateful to the incredible support from the University community that contributed to this moment.”

Although admitted to the MBA program at Stanford, Duswalt couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work in the White House on a project so close to her heart.  She was passionate about civic engagement as an undergraduate, and of course, was encouraged to follow her passions.  We have no doubts that when the time comes and she reapplies to Stanford, that she’ll be admitted once again as a Truman Scholar.

In 2009, Duswalt was awarded a Truman Scholarship.  The selection committee recognized her interest and leadership in the fields of childhood nutrition, behavioral and culinary science, and American food culture.  She’s particularly interested in investigating ways to remedy the increasing rates of obesity in American children.  Her new duties in the White House Office of the First Lady will engage all her interests and skills.

Duswalt, a native of Rosenberg, Texas, and the first in her family to attend college, was one of 60 Scholars selected from among 601 candidates in 2009.  Each Truman Scholarship provides up to $30,000 for graduate study.  Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government.

Recipients are United States citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, are in the top quarter of their class and are committed to careers in government or non-profits.  In return for the funding, Truman Scholars pledge to serve for three to seven years in the public service sector after receiving their graduate degrees.

Marissa’s Plan II/Dean’s Scholars Honors thesis, supervised by Dr. John Stephen Hursting, Chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, studied the relationships between nutrition, metabolism and disease prevention. Marissa investigated how differences in the saccharide ratio comprising the carbohydrate portion of the American diet lead to obesity and metabolic dysfunction.

Duswalt is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa.  She was a 2007 Temple Scholar, a Plan II Distinguished Graduate and a Presidential Scholar. As an undergraduate, she initiated a service-learning initiative to integrate civic engagement into the Plan II curriculum, and worked at the Health Promotion Resource Center as a Nutrition Educator.

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