Dr. Judy Harrison is an award-winning Professor and Extension Foods Specialist in the Department of Foods and Nutrition. She examines food safety education needs, methods for delivering food safety education to a variety of audiences, and measures the impact of educational programs. She also conducts applied research in the food safety area and teaches people in Georgia and other states about food and how to keep it safe to improve health outcomes and prevent illness. She answers questions below about her background and career so far at UGA.
Where did you earn your degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned my bachelor's degree in Secondary Education - Biology from Tennessee Tech University, my master's degree in Food Technology and Science from the University of Tennessee and my Ph.D. in Nutrition here at the University of Georgia. I am a Professor in the Department of Foods and Nutrition and a Food Safety Specialist with UGA Extension. My focus is on keeping people safe and well in Georgia and beyond by keeping food safe. That means I get to develop educational materials, provide training for County Extension Agents across the state and work with lots of audiences, including elementary school children, child care providers, adult consumers, farmers, and farmers' market managers.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I actually came to Athens with my husband who is a food microbiologist in the Department of Food Science and Technology here at UGA. You should sit in on some of our dinner conversations! I did not begin my faculty position until 1992. I had the opportunity to work in outreach with UGA Extension which has allowed me to combine my background in curriculum development and instruction with my degrees in nutrition and food science.
What interests you about your field?
The fields of food science, nutrition and food safety are always changing. Each day brings new issues and new information that need to be communicated to consumers. My position allows me to stay abreast of food safety research, evaluate what is being done and what the research shows, and then translate the best research into educational messages for a variety of different audiences. I like to think I'm helping to improve public health by keeping people safe from foodborne illnesses which can have serious complications in several population groups and can even result in death.
What are some highlights of your career?
Having elementary school teachers send me photos of their kids in their school washing their hands and singing a handwashing song we have taught them or send me drawings the children have made of bacteria always makes me say, "Wow, it worked!" Sometimes people will come up to me after a program and be so appreciative and want to know more, and that is always a highlight for me. Receiving the Walter Bernard Hill Award in 2004, the Walter Bernard Hill Fellow in 2008 for distinguished achievement in Public Service and Outreach at UGA and three first place food safety awards over my career from the National Extension Association for Family and Consumer Sciences have been very rewarding.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
I hope the people who participate in my outreach classes become more knowledgeable about food safety and adopt practices that will help them keep themselves and others safe and healthy.
Describe your ideal student.
The ideal student for me is one that no matter what their age, they are inquisitive, eager to learn and eager to implement what they have learned.
What is your favorite place to be/activity to do on campus?
I like to go walk through North Campus because I think it is a beautiful place, and I also enjoy seeing all the flowers and plants in the trial gardens on South Campus.
What do you like to do beyond the UGA campus?
I love to travel, and I enjoy hiking. I am an avid fan of HGTV. If I could combine these, and if I were independently wealthy, I think I might like to have three tiny houses - one in the Caribbean, one in the mountains and one in the desert of southern Utah.
What does your community/civic involvement include?
With two sons who played soccer, football and were active in Boy Scouts, I have lots of experience in concession stands and barbecue fundraisers! I have also been actively involved in my church where I have served as an elder, been the "communion lady," and serve as a lay reader on various occasions.
What is your favorite book/movie?
I loved the Harry Potter books. For my favorite movie, I would probably have to say the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I think this may mean I wanted to be a princess and live in a mystical kingdom when I grew up! But when I need a good laugh, Sponge Bob is always an option. What's not to love about a snail named Gary that meows?
What is your proudest moment at UGA?
My proudest moment at UGA was when I got to go out on the football field at half-time to be recognized for the Hill Fellow Award in 2008. I got to sit in the President's sky box for the game and even got to pet Uga.