As a doctoral student, Cotwright focused her research on adolescents, working with middle-school students as they wrote and performed their own health-oriented plays.
In each instance, Cotwright gathered data that demonstrated the benefits of theater, dance and music to teach the importance of nutrition and exercise.
Since earning her Ph.D., Cotwright has continued to concentrate on obesity-prevention programs for children. As a Kellogg Health Scholar at Morgan State University in Baltimore from 2008 to 2010, she developed and led the Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds program at the Union Baptist Head Start Center, establishing a nutrition and exercise curriculum for children, teachers and parents. This program also inspired the center to renovate its recreational spaces and create new and healthier menus.
Prior to accepting an Assistant Professor position in the UGA Foods and Nutrition Department, Cotwright was an Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education Fellow at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where she was an integral part of the team charged with implementing First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” childcare initiative. Cotwright also co-led a federal interagency workgroup focused on healthy weight in early childhood and oversaw the CDC’s technical-assistance activities to states and communities that are pursuing obesity-prevention efforts in early-child-care and educational settings.
Dr. Cotwright has excelled in her performance and truly has been indispensable,” says Meredith Reynolds, a leader within the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “The quality and quantity of her work have been exceptional in making a difference in improving policies and practices at the federal, state and local levels.”