U-M School of Public Health Scholarship Stories: Nikki Kasper

Scholarship Stories


Nikki Kasper

SPH Degree Program

P.h.D. in Human Nutrition

Previous SPH Degree

M.P.H. '09, Health Management and Policy


Cadillac, Michigan

SPH Scholarship

Environmental Health Sciences Scholarship/Award: This scholarship provides support to help recruit and develop the best environmental health sciences students. 
Maxine Moore Forsyth Human Nutrition Scholarship: This scholarship provides support to worthy students studying human nutrition.

Why Nutrition

I’ve always been interested in the role of food in public health and disease prevention. After completing my master’s degree, I worked at Children’s Hospital in Detroit and Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. I saw that nutrition is a primary contributor to disease in kids. And in kids who have diseases that aren’t caused by nutritional issues, nutrition is one of the most important aspects of their care.

Why Kids

A lot of what determines people’s weight and health throughout their lives happens in childhood. Kids don’t have a choice over what they’re eating, so their diet may be setting them up for diseases that will affect them for their whole life.

Dissertation Topic

I’m interested in seeing how the food environment can affect the diets of people who are food-insecure. For example, in countries outside the U.S., food insecurity is generally associated with people being underweight. In the U.S. it’s associated more with overweight because people without means eat very low-quality food.

How Scholarships Make the Difference

WScholarship funding has given me more time to focus on my own research, figure out what I’m doing for my dissertation, and really focus on my classes.

Extracurricular Activity

I’m part of a U-M student organization called the Ann Arbor Student Food Co. We’re working to improve access to healthy food on campus. We found that 52 percent of students don’t have cars, and 36 percent are food-insecure, and that students are having trouble getting things like fresh produce. So we opened a stand that sells fresh produce on campus. Because we’re all student volunteers, we sell our food basically at cost. A lot of students will stop by and pick up a piece of fruit on their way to class instead of a bagel or croissant. They buy things like kale and butternut squash!

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