Among the four new professors at Maryville College this year, Dr. Alexa Shutt brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the newly-formed exercise science major.
After earning her Bachelor of Science in consumer science and education with a concentration in dietetics from the University of Memphis, Shutt went on to receive a Master’s degree in public health and a Ph.D. in health and human science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Her husband’s job as an Air Force pilot took her to Oklahoma and Texas, where she worked as a contract nutritionist for the Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Prevention Program at the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Coming to Maryville, she said, was like coming home.
“I went to grad school in Knoxville, and my husband’s parents live here,” Shutt said.
After her husband began work as a pilot at the Air Force Base in Alcoa, Shutt said that the opening at Maryville was “perfect.”
According to Shutt, a career in nutrition was one she hadn’t thought about as a child.
“I didn’t really learn about food until college,” Shutt said. “Then I became really interested in it and how it affects the body.”
Consumer science and education, the modern term for home economics, was where nutrition and food studies were housed, she said, which led to her undergraduate major. Cooking and baking remain hobbies of hers today.
Shutt’s interest in how food can be used to prevent disease led to her to pursue community and public health. It was in this field she found her passion for changing attitudes towards food and wellness by focusing on empowering communities, rather than just individuals.
She extends that notion to the college:
“I see the same students in all of the classes [in the PHR majors], which is great, but I would love to see non-majors taking nutrition. Everyone needs to learn about nutrition. And I would love to have everyone take PHR 101, which focuses on overall wellness.”
The college is at a pivotal point in terms of wellness, as the student wellness initiative group begins to implement strategies for encouraging healthy lifestyle choices.
“College is the first real time that students are able to function as adults, and a really important part of that is the ability to employ health-promoting behaviors,” Shutt said.
Such behaviors including being active, making healthy food choices and engaging in healthful stress management techniques. Shutt believes can make a big difference in the campus’s overall well-being.
“I would love to see all students engaged in learning and using these behaviors, no matter where they’re starting from,” Shutt said.
Shutt touts the ability to make healthy lifestyle choices as a “vital life-skill” that will transcend students’ career at MC.
When Shutt is not teaching or thinking up strategies to make communities healthier, she can be found outdoors, reading, doing yoga or playing with her dog.
As an instructor of exercise science, Shutt seeks to not only instruct her students in the classroom, but also to instill sustainable life practices that will allow them to live happy and healthy lives.