Project Team

Dr. Anastasia Snelling
Lab Director

Dr. Anastasia Snelling is a professor and Chair of the Department of Health Studies at American University. Her research focuses on different methods of behavior change in nutrition education to manage risk factors related to chronic disease including improving access, establishing policies, and implementing programs. These projects are done primarily in vulnerable communities using a health equity lense to improve health outcomes.

Robin McClaveProgram Director

Robin McClave is the Program Director for the Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities research in the Department of Health Studies. Her work is focused on improving health for children and adults in DC communities by increasing healthy options and reducing barriers. Robin is striving to support changes in social contexts as well as systems that promote health and empower individuals in a variety of settings, including schools, churches, and corner stores.

Dr. Sarah Irvine Belson

Dr. Sarah Irvine Belson currently serves as the interim Vice Provost for Research at American University. Her research explores educational opportunity and applied interventions for children at risk, including holistic, community-based programs and teacher education policy and practice. This work includes research on policy in health and wellness for students and teachers, special education and education reform.

Dr. Elizabeth Cotter

Dr. Elizabeth Cotter is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Studies at American University and the Director of the Behavioral Health and Well-being Lab. She is a licensed psychologist who conducts research in the areas of: 1) the prevention and treatment of eating and weight-related concerns; and 2) mindfulness-based approaches to improving health behaviors. 

Dr. Melissa Hawkins

Dr. Melissa Hawkins is the Director of the Public Health Scholars program in the Department of Health Studies and serves as Research Director of the Healthy Schoolhouse 2.0 project. She is trained as an epidemiologist and is engaged in work to improve maternal, infant and child health, particularly in at-risk communities. Currently, her research addresses the integration of community health workers (CHWs) in the U.S. health workforce, in both clinical and community-based teams, and effectiveness of CHWs in reducing health disparities.

Erin Watts
Research Manager

Erin Watts is the Research Manager in the Department of Health Studies. She oversees federally, locally, and privately-funded research related to school health and childhood obesity. Her work has focused on the DC Healthy Schools Act of 2010, increasing health literacy among elementary school students in underserved communities in DC, collaborating with community partners to increase healthy food offerings in corner stores, and evaluating strategies to encourage students to consume healthy school lunches. Prior to this, she was the Health Education Specialist at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education of Washington, DC, where she focused on the implementation of the DC Healthy Schools Act. Erin has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned her Master of Public Health degree from the George Washington University.

Caitlin LavigneResearch Coordinator

Caitlin Lavigne is currently a master’s student in the Health Promotion Management program. She graduated from University of Delaware with a BS in Health Behavioral Science in 2018. She is the Research Coordinator for both Healthy Schoolhouse 2.0 and the DCPS Plant-Based projects. Her main research interests are in nutrition education in the school environment.

Ayanna Wells
Research Coordinator

Ayanna Wells is the Research Coordinator for Faithfully Fit and DC Central Kitchen’s Healthy Corners evaluation. As an alumna of AU’s Health Promotion Management master’s program, Ayanna is passionate about educating populations on how to live a healthy lifestyle, ultimately impacting future generations. In her free time, she strives to infuse health education into her yoga classes and personal training sessions.

Graduate Assistants

Lisa Joseph:
MS Health Promotion Management

Graduate Assistants in the Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities Lab are involved in the following research activities:

  • Applying health promotion management theories and principles learned in classes to research concepts
  • Collecting data on nutrition literacy and fruit and vegetable consumption
  • Creating Joyful Food Market activities for student participation