Kritika Gupta named UM graduate school class marshal

Published 2:02 pm Thursday, May 5, 2022

The Graduate School at the University of Mississippi has named Kritika Gupta as its class marshal for the university’s 2022 Commencement, which runs through Sunday, May 8.

Gupta, a native of Kapurthala, India, is graduating with a doctorate in nutrition and hospitality management. Her doctoral research examined the resilience capacity of school lunch programs in Mississippi, Louisiana and West Virginia in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Besides being passionate about using research to address child nutrition issues, Gupta has been a prolific author and presenter, and has been active in serving her fellow students through campus organizations, said Georgianna Mann, an assistant professor of nutrition and hospitality management

“Kritika is incredibly proactive,” Mann said. “She never misses an opportunity. She is helpful, kind and inquisitive. I have yet to meet a student with a hunger for learning to match hers.”

Gupta has received five internal grants and fellowships at the university, including the 2022 Achieving Equity Grant. She has 14 scientific publications and 10 conference presentations to her credit.

She will be joining the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior board of directors for 2022-23 after serving as the SNEB student division chair for 2021-22 and Graduate Student Council director of academic and professional development for 2021-22.

“She is a very motivated doctoral student who often takes on leadership roles when working with other students,” said Victoria Zigmont, assistant professor of public health and health sciences. “She is passionate about nutrition and improving health for vulnerable populations, and I am excited to see what wonderful work she does after graduation.”

A member of Phi Kappa Phi honor society, Gupta is the recipient of 2022 Outstanding Graduate Student in Nutrition and Hospitality Management Award, 2021 Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award, and 2021 CETL Graduate Teaching Assistant Award. She has served on various university search committees and chancellor’s standing committees.

“I cannot express how proud I am to be the 2022 doctoral class marshal,” Gupta said. “I am grateful that the deciding committee members showed faith in my ability.

“If I recall my younger self 10 years ago, I would have never imagined myself to be a class marshal for my doctorate degree in the U.S. It is a big deal for me and a memory I will cherish forever.”

Gupta came to Ole Miss as a second-generation graduate student.

“Like many other international students, I have had my fair share of culture shock,” she recalled. “The whole education and university culture are very different in the U.S. than it was in India. However, the fact that I earned my doctorate in degree in less than three years speaks to the level of support and encouragement I have received from my advisers Dr. Georgianna Mann and Dr. Laurel Lambert, and the nutrition and hospitality management department itself.”

“I come from a family that highly values education. My dad has a Ph.D. in agricultural economics, and my mom has a Master of Philosophy in physics.”

One of Gupta’s proudest accomplishments was being a speaker for the 2021 TEDxUniversityofMississippi event, where she discussed her research and passion for child nutrition, school wellness policies, science communication and mental health. Her talk emphasized that the pandemic has highlighted an ongoing, pressing need for building hunger-resilient communities.

“She is gathering data about the COVID pandemic and its impact on school nutrition,” Mann said. “She focuses specifically on school meal program resilience, noting which practices and policies were most helpful during the pandemic, which can also apply to other disasters that may occur.”

Laurel Lambert, associate professor in nutrition and hospitality management, also praised Gupta’s work.

“I believe Kritika’s research with child nutrition programs’ resiliency to COVID is groundbreaking in identifying the amazing ingenuity and creative use of resources by child nutrition directors in their determination to continue feeding our children,” Lambert said.

“I have never had a student teach me so much! She is extremely bright, personable, resourceful, and she was a joy to work with and watch grow into an experienced researcher.”

Gupta is joining the university’s Center for Research Evaluation as a postdoctoral research associate and will be working on a National Institutes of Health project.