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Dr. Kecia R. Johnson

Dr. Kecia R. Johnson

Dr. Kecia R. Johnson is Co-Director and Co-Principal Investigator of the Mississippi Food Insecurity Project (MFIP) and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Mississippi State University. Her research interests are in gender, race/ethnicity and criminology. She examines processes that perpetuate gender and racial inequality within a variety of social contexts. Dr. Johnson is interested in understanding the gendered and racialized dynamics of food insecurity and food access.
Dr. Kenya M. Cistrunk

Dr. Kenya M. Cistrunk

Dr. Kenya M. Cistrunk is Co-Director and Co-Principal Investigator for the Mississippi Food Insecurity Project (MFIP), and she is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Mississippi State University. For 15 years, she served a number of clients in the juvenile justice system, child protection services, and student services within university life. Cistrunk earned a doctorate degree in Adult Education from the University of Georgia in 2013. Her research centers on service provisions for marginalized and/or oppressed populations, and she is especially committed to helping mobilize communities and at-risk populations for change. She is a licensed masters-level social worker.
Dr. Brittney D. Oliver

Dr. Brittney D. Oliver

Dr. Brittney D. Oliver is an Assistant Professor of Health Promotion in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion at Mississippi State University. She earned her doctorate at Middle Tennessee State University in Human Performance with a specialization in health promotion and health education. Dr. Oliver has research interests in health disparities experienced by racial and ethnic minority populations and, more specifically, the ways in which cultural factors influence health beliefs and behaviors. With respect to the role of cultural and socio-ecological approaches in health promotion, Dr. Oliver's current efforts pertain to the development, implementation, and translation of community-based and sustained interventions to address health disparities in diverse populations and settings.
Dr. Margaret Ralston

Dr. Margaret Ralston

Dr. Margaret Ralston joined the faculty at Mississippi State University in 2014 after receiving her Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her research focuses on understanding patterns of health and wellbeing in relation to social policies, community resources, and social relationships. Dr. Ralston’s past research has examined the intersection of health, the built environment, and social capital in the US context. Her current project explores concepts of health and social wellbeing in aging populations in the Global South. Dr. Ralston uses primarily secondary data sources and survey data in her research, which has been published in journals such as Research on Aging, Social Science & Medicine, and Population Research and Policy Review.
Office: 294 Bowen Hall
Dr. Ashley Vancil-Leap

Dr. Ashley Vancil-Leap

Ashley Vancil-Leap joined the Mississippi State faculty as an Instructor in 2016 after receiving her Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Missouri. She is a gender scholar who focuses on the links between culture, identity, labor, food insecurity, and inequalities such as race and class. Her latest work examined the physical and emotional labor of school food service employees in a Midwest city in response to local, state, and national policy changes to school breakfast and lunch programs. Her work can be seen in Advances in Gender Research and Gender Issues.
Dr. Diego Thompson

Dr. Diego Thompson

Dr. Diego Thompson joined the faculty at Mississippi State University in 2017. He received his Ph.D. and Master degrees in Sociology and Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. Dr. Thompson completed his Bachelor degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of the Republic of Uruguay. His research has focused on sustainable development, agri-food systems, migration, governance, and adaptation to environmental changes in rural communities, in the United States and in Latin America. Prior to joining the Department of Sociology at MSU he was a faculty member in Middlebury College.
Dr. Caroline Kobia

Dr. Caroline Kobia

Dr. Caroline Kobia is an assistant professor of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Mississippi State University. Her research focuses on consumer behavior and economic development in rural growth. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development certified her in leadership on rural education research and policy and she works with small business to revitalize economic growth. Other research interests include experiential learning and social media marketing.
Ms. Claudette Jones

Ms. Claudette Jones

As a Research Associate, Claudette Jones provides technical assistance to Mississippi communities. Service areas include: comparative salary surveys; independent research and writing on food insecurity, food systems development, and local economic/community development; and research and writing on the issues and impacts of Baby Boomer retirement.

Jones' career spans more than 35 years in media, public relations, and marketing, with a concentration in the built industry. She has marketed professional services to municipalities, counties, transportation authorities, and state and federal agencies. Marketing management and consulting experience in several business sectors includes: Engineering environmental, civil (site, transportation and aviation), structural, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP); Architecture commercial and residential development, assisted living and healthcare, education, corrections, and landscape architecture; Construction commercial, healthcare, and residential development; Military marketing support for U.S. Air Force aeropropulsion, aerodynamic ground testing, and environmental projects; and Real Estate property listing, client relations, and advertising.

Jones holds a BFA from Middle Tennessee State University; a MFA from the University of Cincinnati; and a MPPA and GIS certification from Mississippi State University.
Ms. Laura Jean Kerr

Ms. Laura Jean Kerr

Laura Jean Kerr is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Mississippi State University. She has worked in research for over seven years as a research analyst and associate. She earned her Bachelor’s from the University of Southern Mississippi and her Master’s from Mississippi State University. Her research interests are social inequality in policy and rural policy.
Ms. Maria Trinh

Ms. Maria Trinh

Maria Trinh is a graduate assistant and Sociology PhD candidate at Mississippi State University. She obtained her BA in Sociology and Psychology at Georgia Southwestern State University. Maria Trinh then received her MA in Sociology at Valdosta State University where she worked as a research assistant studying issues occurring in rural settings and participated in the National Hunger Study.
Ms. Cassandra Wilder

Ms. Cassandra Wilder

Cassandra Hawkins Wilder is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Public Administration at Jackson State University. She currently serves as a policy research analyst for the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center at Alcorn State University. A seasoned and licensed educator for over ten years, Cassandra holds a BS in psychology with a minor in Political Science and a MA in English from Jackson State University. She is a member of Alpha Epsilon Lambda National Honor Society, Golden Key Honour Society, Beta Kappa Chi National Scientific Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society, and National Scholars Honor Society. Cassandra’s research efforts regarding African American farmers’ participation in USDA programs won Best Overall Faculty/Staff Oral at the 4th Annual Centers for Research Excellence Symposium: Research Seminar Series – Alcorn State University. Recently, Cassandra was invited to join the Mississippi Food Insecurity Project at Mississippi State University. Her research interests include student pedagogy, American literature, agriculture policy, rural policy, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and food insecurity in Mississippi.
Ms. Lindsey Shaw

Ms. Lindsey Shaw

Lindsey Shaw received her B.S. in Sociology from Jackson State University in 2016 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Sociology at Mississippi State University. Her overall research interests are focused on minority health in Mississippi.
Prof. Silvina Lopez Barrera

Prof. Silvina Lopez Barrera

Silvina Lopez Barrera is an Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture at Mississippi State University. She is a licensed Architect in Uruguay, LEED AP accredited with building design and construction specialty, and holds a Master of Architecture degree from Iowa State University. Her research is at the intersection of architecture, urban studies, and spatial justice. Prof. Lopez Barrera current academic interests include informal urbanism and housing inequality, public interest design and participatory design to develop sustainable alternatives for rural-urban communities and food systems, and trans-nationalism particularly in finding linkages between Latin America and the U.S. She is a member of Uruguayan Society of Architects and an associate member of the American Institute of Architects.
Mr. John Buffington

Mr. John Buffington

John Buffington is a Programmer Analyst at the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (NSPARC) at Mississippi State University who specializes in frontend engineering. Having developed the initial MFIP website in 2015, John is well acquainted with the Food Environment Atlas dataset. The data used by the Environment Explorer map on the MFIP website is sourced from this dataset and is made available by the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA ERS) (https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-environment-atlas). Under the umbrella of NSPARC, John has re-developed the MFIP website and Environment Explorer map to include many more features than its initial version and more easily provide the ability to glean useful information from the map application itself.
Dr. Leslie Hossfeld

Dr. Leslie Hossfeld

Dr. Leslie Hossfeld was founding Director and Lead Principal Investigator of the Mississippi Food Insecurity Project (MFIP) and the former Professor and Head of the Department of Sociology at Mississippi State University. She is trained in Rural Sociology from North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Dr. Hossfeld has extensive experience examining rural poverty and economic restructuring and has made two presentations to the United States Congress and one to the North Carolina Legislature on job loss and rural economic decline. Dr. Hossfeld has served as Co-Chair of the American Sociological Association Task Force on Public Sociology, Vice President of Sociologists for Women in Society, President of the Southern Sociological Society, and appointed to the USDA Rural Growth and Opportunity Board of Advisors. In July 2018 she joined Clemson University.