Monthly Archives: April 2021

Member Highlight: Kitty R. Coffey, PhD, CFCS

In my very first board meeting of Kappa Omicron Nu, I immediately took notice of Kitty Coffey. Kitty is a retired KON member. Once an interim chapter adviser, she is Professor Emerita for the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Carson-Newman University (Kappa Beta Xi chapter) in Jefferson City, TN. A slim, polished woman, Kitty is every inch a southern lady. Though she is petite, she can also command a room not with a loud voice or angry words, but with a friendly congenial candor that disarms and charms. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Kitty about her impressive history of service with Kappa Omicron Nu.

Q: How did you become involved in KON?

A: I have fond memories of being invited to join Omicron Nu (ON), one of the two predecessors of Kappa Omicron Nu, as a junior in 1963 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). The initiation ceremony, with the top scholars in my college along with faculty members I held in particularly high regard, made a significant impression on me. I felt a new connection and a real pride in being a part of a scholarship in my chosen profession. After earning BS and MS degrees at UTK and being an instructor in higher education for a few years, I returned to UTK for my PhD – still a proud member of ON. Moving on to Carson-Newman, a liberal arts Christian college – now university – in rural East Tennessee, I was invited to join another scholastic honorary, Kappa Omicron Phi, in my chosen profession of home economics. To my delight, a few years later, my land-grant university’s ON scholastic honorary merged with my smaller liberal arts college KON scholastic honorary to create a new, larger, and more diverse Kappa Omicron Nu. So here I am involved in KON!

Q: What did you like about KON?

A: Over my time as a member of KON (and its predecessors ON and KOΦ), I’ve appreciated that whether affiliated with a big university or a small college, chapters were treated equally well. I loved so much that at KON conclaves and regional meetings, smaller chapter delegations were as active, well-received, and recognized as larger ones. As C-N department chair and KON member, I proudly pointed out to prospective majors, our Kappa Beta Xi “KON Wall of Honor” featuring our 26 Chapter of Excellence Awards won under the outstanding advisorship of Dr. Diana D. Dearing (1980-2014) and Dr. Amber Roth (2015-present). KON is for chapters of many sizes, locales, and originations.

Kitty R. Coffey with FCS alumni at Carson-Newman Homecoming 2018 viewing memorabilia commemorating the 50th anniversary of C-N’s Alpha Beta Xi Chapter

Q: Can you tell me about your research/career?

A: I was a UTK Food Science and Nutrition major who, after doing an independent study research project, decided I liked bench research. I presented my research from the masters’ thesis entitled, The Effects of Cooking on the Phospholipid Content of Lean Ground Beef at the Institute of Food Technology meeting in Minneapolis the next year and co-authored a UT Extension Bulletin with my major professor, Dr. Ada Marie Campbell. After teaching at the University of Alabama, I joined the Nutrition Department at the University of Tennessee Medical Units in Memphis as an assistant professor in the Child Development Center (CDC), a grant-supported University-Affiliated Facility (UAF). The focus changed to food and nutrition as a part of an interdisciplinary team approach to teaching healthcare professionals (physicians, nurses, psychologists, audiologists, speech therapists, nutritionists, and many others) in intellectual and developmental challenges in children. We evaluated and treated patients with inborn errors of metabolism, eating disorders, developmental feeding disorders, and more. It was at the CDC that I developed my research interest in childhood obesity and co-authored a book, Fun Foods for Fat People, while directing the CDC Childhood Obesity Clinic. As a member of the CDC Interdisciplinary Team Approach to Poverty community outreach research project, I co-authored our findings and recommendations to end the cycle of inner-city poverty.

     Returning to UTK to work on a doctorate in socio-cultural food science, I turned a new interest in obesity into my dissertation topic, Food Behaviors of Adolescents Relative to Adiposity, directed by Dr. Ann Bass. I had the privilege of reporting my doctoral research at the annual meetings of the American Dietetic Association (now Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) and the Society for Nutrition Education. Regrettably, I did not complete the editorial review process for publication of this research in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association due to competing demands on time. My lesson learned, which I pass forward to new doctorates: Make publishing from your dissertation a career priority as it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to maximize and advance your research.

C-N FCS faculty at the 2021 departmental fall retreat. L to R: Dr. Rae Dutro, Dr. Kitty Coffey, Dr. Amber Roth, Dr. Kimberly Johnson, Dr. Lisa Connor.

Q: How did KON help you?

A: KON helped me transition my scholarly efforts from bench and field research to perspectives in practice. This was a better fit for me as a professor, department chair, and later division coordinator and school dean in a small liberal arts college with emphasis on excellence in teaching. Through acquaintance with KON’s programs of work, I reframed my scholarship to leadership in quality faculty, programs, and facilities development in higher education. I was also privileged to report at several programs and in proceedings of the Council for Administrators of Family and Consumer Sciences (CAFCS) and the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS). Additionally, I co-authored numerous self-study reports for initial and reaccreditation for AAFCS and chaired C-N’s institutional self-study and site visit. I then co-authored a book with Dr. Ellen Millsaps, a former Writing Across the Curriculum Regional Workshop leader for KON in the 90’s entitled A Handbook to Guide Educational Institutions Through the Accreditation Process. Happily, I had an article published in Kappa Omicron Nu’s Forum entitled, “The place of family and consumer sciences in a small, private college.” A decade later, I was privileged to have my KON conclave address, “The Case for KON Leadership,” published in Kappa Omicron Nu Dialogue. More recently, I was honored to have my biography included among the 130 Leaders in Family Consumer Sciences, published by KON in 2016.

Dr. Kitty Coffey, FCS Department Chair, and Dr. Diana Carroll, Alpha Beta Xi Chapter Advisor worked closely together at Carson Newman.

Q: What have you learned from KON?

A: I’ve learned the values of collaboration, leadership, and mentorship in the continuous quality improvement of scholarship. Particularly relevant to us, I think, is mentorship. For example, my department chair predecessor – Dr. Evelyn Simpson – who served as C-N’s first KOΦ chapter advisor, skillfully mentored her successor advisor, Dr. Diana D. Carroll. Diana served in that capacity until her retirement being twice named KON Outstanding Advisor and an elected Vice President on the Board of Directors. Following Diana’s retirement, I took a turn as the interim KON chapter advisor. With Diana’s consultation I mentored new faculty member, Dr. Amber Roth, to become C-N’s third KON chapter advisor in 50 years. Collaboration, Succession, and Continuity!

Dr. Coffey presents certificate of appreciation to host Ray Bible while colleague Dr. Diana Carroll looks on. Certificate of Appreciation was awarded to hosts of Dr. Carroll’s FCS Cooperative Management and Housing class studying “adaptive housing for aging in place.”

Q: What contributions can be made by members in retirement?

A: I’m almost into my second year of retirement. As department chair, I would directly encourage and mentor someone. Now, I can contribute by sharing my thoughts and insights with KON leadership as someone who has been with KON a long time and has seen the history of our programs and projects. This is one of the many perspectives needed as you move our organization forward. As we regenerate, I can offer some perspectives on what I have seen as valuable from the past that might help shape our future.

It’s so important for our alumni to be just as engaged as our students. We can encourage alumni members to sponsor today’s student scholars by mentoring them and helping them build their leadership skills and develop their own networks. It also wouldn’t hurt to always have an alumnus on the board. Recently retired might be ideal.

Dr. Coffey presents student Sarah Sharp with KON Scholars award, with Kathleen O’Rourke

Q: In your opinion, what do you think KON needs?

A: Already, KON has enhanced its media, email outreach, and the blog. We’re at a very exciting point in transitioning from the past to the present. We’ve realized that our old paradigms, no matter how proud we were of them, are past. With excitement and vision, we’ve adapted. Now, we’re looking into the future. We’re strengthening our new programs in the human sciences in hospitality, kinesiology, and exercise science. There’s new blood in leadership and in association management, too. We need to provide our students today something to do. I’m excited to see people wanting to get onto committees and to contribute. There’s a great legacy that’s been created. KON has a VERY proud past and a VERY promising future.

From L to R: Dr. Kitty R. Coffey, Chelsea Buchanan, Dr. Diana D. Carroll

Q: What are your hobbies/interests?

A: I collect cookbooks from every city I go to. They all have some history. When I was teaching, I didn’t have much time to practice, but now I use them. What’s Kitty’s favorite recipe right now? Exotic chicken salad from the Junior League Cookbook of Memphis. It uses diced rotisserie chicken, curry, grapes, and soy sauce and is a hit at potlucks. She thinks again and amends her answer: “Or banana pudding. I substitute the vanilla wafers with Famous Amos™ macadamia nut cookies. I just use the instant pudding box, but with the upgrades, you’d never know.

Chapter Highlight: Kappa Alpha

When it comes to programming, KON’s Kappa Alpha chapter can teach us all a thing or two. Recently I spoke with Karen E. From MS, RD, LD, who is the Chapter Advisor of Kappa Alpha at Northwest Missouri State University, School of Health Science and Wellness about the programming detailed in their Chapter B report. In reading over their programming report to the national office, I was caught by the following line:

“30th year of nut sales completed offering three scholarships for members.”

30 years of nut sales? That’s a lot of nuts. I called Karen to ask her about it. She laughed, “nut sales have been going on since 1990 and were run by then adviser, Beth Goudge. Beth was the adviser for 23 years. She was remarkable. We have an annual fundraising event selling nuts that we source through a small local business about two hours outside of town. The chapter gets a percent of what we sell. This way we’re supporting local businesses and Missouri agriculture. It also lets us focus on health because our program is dietetics. We even sold during COVID. We had stipulations on who you could work with and how you could reach out, but we did it.”

How did they do that? Each year when we elect officers we also elect someone as chair of the nut committee. They join with two other members who were voted into the nut committee. Together the nut committee meets with the KON exec team and advisor to decide on which of the many nuts and snacks we will sell that year and the price we will sell them for. The nut committee creates an order form and descriptions to market the products. They also decide on how many pounds each member is supposed to sell. At a meeting in early October, each member is given their order form in a sheet protector, and a description sheet for each item. Each member is asked to sell at least 20 pounds of nut products to be considered an active member. The due date is decided upon, usually the last day of October. A Nut Committee member and the treasurer or president count all the nut orders and money. The total order is given to the chapter adviser who places the order with the local nut company. The total order is received by mid-November. Then the nut committee members verify we received every item ordered and place each nut order in a paper bag for members to pick up. Each member signs that their order is correct and distributes the orders to their customers before Thanksgiving.

The results speak for themselves. Their largest sale to date was 1,020 pounds of nuts under Beth’s reign. That wasn’t a one-time anomaly though, a couple of semesters ago they had over 900 pounds to distribute. Most years, they raise between $1,500 to $2,000, and of that amount, $900-$1,000 goes into three scholarships for active committee participants that are given out in the fall.

Kappa Alpha’s 2019-2020 Meetings

  • September 2019: KON Scavenger Hunt
  • October 2019: Pumpkin Painting Contest
  • November 2019: Philanthropy event planning
  • December 2019: Brunch & Yoga – Omelet station and restorative yoga with Kamryn
  • January 2020: No meeting due to winter break
  • February 2020: Philanthropy Event – (inspiration cards/basket)
  • March 2020: Senior Etiquette Presentation and bullying initiative. (cancelled but planned)

The best part about Kappa Alpha’s programming is that it doesn’t stop there. They have a monthly activity at each of their chapter meetings. At the beginning of the year, each member signs up for a month’s meeting to create appropriate programming. Members usually sign up for more than one month, and often there are 3-4 members to work on each program idea. This way, all the chapter members take turns planning programming for their chapter. They have to select programs that meet one of KON’s ideals of research, leadership, or scholarship. The Vice-President is in charge of programming and makes sure things are on track. Karen reports that they try to use some of what the KON national office has on the website, but also delves into things the members like to make it interesting for them. For example, one of their students teaches yoga at the fitness center. To take advantage of that skill, they made a yoga event for the last month before the winter holidays. This provided an activity that would give back to the members.

One of their lessons learned is to go with the flow, and that not all projects work out. In November, Kappa Alpha was working with another association on their floor to hold a bake sale to raise money to fight food insecurity Backpack Buddies, a local program for food-insecure youth. Unfortunately, the school athletic director said selling cookies at the event would interfere with the Northwest Aramark food contract, and the program didn’t materialize. Despite the disappointment, Karen was positive about the experience. She noted that they had gotten quite far along in planning, “we had already built the marketing and event plan, and had made a quite a bit of progress. We learned a lot from the experience.”

Without their nut sales or bake sale, they were coming up short on a philanthropic activity. Then they learned about a fellow college student Bearcat who had brain surgery. The procedure hadn’t gone as hoped, and the patient was struggling at a local rehabilitation facility. Kappa Alpha used their funds to make a “basket of hope and happiness.” We got her inspirational cards and made a gift basket. She was having trouble reading so we got appropriate books, writing and drawing things, snacks, and socks for her feet. We sent notes too just to say we’re thinking of you and praying for you.

With all of this programming, it’s easy to assume Kappa Alpha is a large chapter. But they have just 11 members, including six initiates.

Karen left us with words of wisdom. “Working with the students is fun. It has taken me until the last couple of years to learn to step back and let them lead and plan, by choosing the activities and working out the monthly programming. It is a great learning opportunity for them, and they enjoy the interaction.” What’s Karen’s favorite kind of nut? Almond. She notes though that the most popular option for the students is dark chocolate-covered coffee beans. The word is that they’re good for finals!