Health and Human Development

College of Health and Human Development recognizes outstanding alumni

2020 award winners have battled food insecurity, contributed to the Special Olympics and more

Top row: Linda Gazzillo Diaz and Clancy Harrison. Bottom row: Donaldson F. Conserve, Samuel Scott and Austen Musso. They are the recipients of the College of Health and Human Development’s 2020 Alumni Society Awards. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The College of Health and Human Development Alumni Society has released its list of 2020 award winners. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has pre-empted its annual awards banquet traditionally held on campus, the Alumni Society Board will feature several of its honorees at an upcoming virtual meeting.

All recipients are graduates of the College of Health and Human Development and have distinguished themselves in their careers and service.

Alumni Recognition Award

Linda Gazzillo Diaz, who graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in health education, has since 1996 been active as a medical team volunteer with the Special Olympics New Jersey. She began her relationship with the Special Olympics when she volunteered at the 1990 Pennsylvania State Special Olympics Summer Games as a Penn State athletic training student. In the years that followed, Gazzillo Diaz extended her volunteership to the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committees as a certified athletic trainer.

In addition to her degree from Penn State, Gazzillo Diaz earned a master’s degree in exercise and sport sciences and athletic training from the University of Florida in 1993 and a doctorate in educational administration higher education from Rutgers University in 1999. She is a certified and licensed athletic trainer and licensed massage therapist. She is currently a professor of athletic training and sports medicine at William Paterson University, and she recently completed a 20-year stint as director of the Athletic Training Education Program.

Alumni Service Award

As a registered dietitian, TEDx speaker, and author, Clancy Harrison challenges the way food insecurity is approached in the U.S. Her work aims to dispel the stigma around healthy food access and activate supply chains of food delivery.

Harrison is the founder of the Food Dignity Project, a strategic program for leaders who are committed to nutrition outreach that prioritize healthy food access. Her advocacy has impacted thousands of people through her partnerships with corporations, nonprofit organizations and universities.

Harrison earned her bachelor’s degree in nutrition in 1997. She now holds multiple positions in service-oriented sectors. She is an advisory board member for the Pennsylvania American Academy of Pediatrics Food Insecurity EPIC program, an ambassador of the National Dairy Council and the President of the Al Beech West Side Food Pantry. She also hosts a weekly podcast titled “Food Dignity.”

Emerging Professional­­—Graduate Degree Award

Donaldson F. Conserve received his doctoral degree in biobehavioral health in 2013 under the guidance of Gary King, professor of biobehavioral health. Conserve is currently an associate professor of prevention and community health in the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University.

Conserve has contributed to national efforts to promote HIV testing and develop policy for HIV self-testing in Tanzania as part of his ongoing project funded by a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health. He has expanded his research on HIV self-testing to South Africa and his native country Haiti in collaboration with the World Health Organization and other national and international health agencies. Conserve’s commitment to, and his frequent immersion in, the communities in the countries he works have contributed to his growing reputation as an international expert in HIV prevention. He is currently leveraging his HIV self-testing research to inform the emerging SARS-CoV-2 self-testing field.

Emerging Professional—Graduate Degree Award

Since graduating with a doctoral degree in nutritional sciences in 2015, Samuel Scott has become a research fellow in the Poverty Health and Nutrition Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute in New Delhi, India. He has produced policy-relevant publications on diverse topics such as crop burning and respiratory health, pathways from adolescent childbearing to child undernutrition, trends and drivers of anemia, and determinants of common mental disorders in Indian mothers of young children.

Recently, Scott co-edited a series of over 30 blogs on COVID-19 in relation to food security, health systems, nutrition, gender and agriculture in South Asia. He is a co-principal investigator on an upcoming evaluation of a World Food Programme intervention to improve farmer resilience to climate shocks in Sri Lanka. He is also actively engaged in capacity building of young professionals in India.

Emerging Professional—Undergraduate Degree Award

Austen Musso arrived at University Park without a clear career path but by sophomore year he had zeroed in on coursework related to nutritional sciences and complemented his curricular studies with membership in HealthWorks and the Student Nutrition Association. After Musso graduated with a bachelor’s in nutritional sciences in 2010, he pursued a master’s in the field of public health at Boston University, where he served as president of the student senate.

Musso spent seven years working with the California-based nonprofit organization, Vitamin Angels. His role there took him to Africa more than a dozen times to partner with governments, NGOs and universities to expand distribution of life-saving vitamin A supplements for children and multivitamins for pregnant mothers. These programs reached more than 18 million children under 5 and pregnant mothers in 2018 alone. He currently lives in Washington DC and works an award manager with Save the Children, where he supports a USAID-funded initiative on nutrition security.


Last Updated October 28, 2020