Associate Dean of Programming & ResearchWest Virginia University Extension Service’s Cindy Fitch learned early in her career that conducting diligent research could be a means to changing outcomes for the better.
Through her 30 years of experience in research, curriculum development and working with children and families, Fitch has learned how to use her talents to improve the resources and opportunities available for West Virginians.
As the associate dean for WVU Extension’s Programming and Research, Fitch works daily to increase WVU Extension’s capacity to develop quality programming and execute research that continues to meet West Virginia’s ever-changing needs. She ensures that WVU Extension agents and experts have the tools they need to best serve their communities.
“WVU’s land-grant mission is an invaluable asset to the state, and it is my goal
to see the ripples of Extension’s work continue to spread into the communities
that we serve,” said Fitch.
In her role, Fitch works closely with WVU Extension Service Dean and Director Steve Bonanno to oversee the promotion and tenure process for WVU Extension Service’s more than 200 faculty members.
One element of her job that Fitch most enjoys is the opportunity to help build on the existing successes of WVU Extension Service’s agents and experts.
“I am in awe of the accomplishments of my colleagues in WVU Extension and want to do what I can to support and enhance their continued success in developing programming that creates new opportunities and improves the quality of life for the people of West Virginia,” said Fitch.
A former WVU Extension program unit director, Fitch transitioned into the programming and research role in March 2015 after leading WVU Extension’s Families and Health Unit for more than five years. During that time, Fitch worked with Extension specialists and county agents to provide evidence-based educational programming in the areas of health, nutrition, financial literacy, family relations and human development across the state.
She was instrumental in enhancing the research capacity of the Families and Health program through the hiring of new faculty members, increasing resources and fostering new partnerships with other WVU colleges. In addition to her administrative role, Fitch directed Extension’s diabetes education program, Dining with Diabetes.
“My time as a program director allowed me to understand the pressures of being a county Extension agent or an Extension specialist and to appreciate the vast potential that exists in this organization,” said Fitch. “Though comprised of many individual units, we are one Extension, and it is our responsibility to work together to strengthen the teaching, research and outreach efforts of the land-grand university.”
Prior to joining WVU Extension, Fitch spent more than a decade as a clinical dietician in children’s hospitals in both Dallas and Cleveland, which inspired her to explore ways to make a larger difference in the lives of the children and families she was working with each day.
“Working as a clinical dietitian taught me to make observations and critically think about their solutions,” said Fitch. “That experience motivated me to conduct my own research, which has given me a better understanding of the barriers we face and how to identify routes to sidestep those barriers.”
In 1999, Fitch earned her doctorate in nutrition at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where she completed a dissertation researching the effect of vitamins on critically ill infants.
The same year, she joined the human nutrition faculty at West Virginia University as an assistant professor, where she embraced her faculty role as a springboard to further expand her growing research interests.
Fitch taught several courses while with the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, including introduction to nutrition, contemporary issues in nutrition and cross-cultural dietary patterns, among others. She also developed two graduate courses: maternal and child nutrition, and nutrition and fitness.
In August of 2008, Fitch took a role as the food and nutrition specialist for WVU Extension Service. She was named director of the WVU Extension Service Families and Health program in December of 2009.
Fitch’s research focuses on understanding the relationships among nutrition, growth,
development, and health in children, and she has several publications in that area.
She has given numerous scientific and educational presentations on her research
relating to nutrition’s effects on health.