Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Olivia Whitt ’10
Instructor of Mentorship

Oct. 2020

Although Dr. Olivia Whitt is new to NCSSM faculty, she is no stranger to NCSSM. She is one of the many faculty members who are also NCSSM alumni. Ten years after her NCSSM graduation, Dr. Whitt joins the Mentorship and Research team to co-instruct Mentorship. She will work with both online and residential students as they conduct research with mentors around the Triangle.

After graduating from NCSSM, Dr. Whitt attended NC State University. She had such a great experience with NCSSM’s entrepreneurship and Asian studies courses that she double-majored in Business Administration: Marketing and International Studies: East and Southeast Asia. In her final semester at NCSU, Dr. Whitt completed her senior research project about different health initiatives that could influence nutrition in rural China. She was very interested and invested in her research topic, but did not know it was about public health. Six weeks before Dr. Whitt’s NCSU graduation, her advisor suggested she consider a master of public health program.

Despite never taking a public health course before, Dr. Whitt decided to attend East Carolina University’s master of public health (MPH) program. There, the school paired her with mentor Dr. Stephanie Jilcott-Pitts, an ECU MPH faculty member who primarily conducted public health research focused on nutrition. Dr. Whitt was excited that her mentor had a similar research interest, but was nervous that she did not have any experience collecting or analyzing public health data or even participating on a research team. She often reflects on this experience when helping her Mentorship students who are in a similar situation. She stated, “Mentorship courses help you develop soft skills like professional communication, accountability, and social awareness, so you can confidently navigate these new research opportunities. You don’t have to be an expert in your mentor’s field, but soft skills and a natural curiosity can make your transition into research a lot smoother.” After two years at ECU, Dr. Whitt started to feel more confident as a public health researcher, but wanted to continue developing her soft and technical skills. She believed the best way to grow as a researcher would be to pursue her PhD in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior at the University of South Carolina.

At UofSC, Dr. Whitt continued to take part in research, but was also a teaching assistant for several online public health courses. She loves research and teaching equally and is so excited that her new position allows her to blend her two passions. When Dr. Whitt isn’t meeting with her mentorship students, she enjoys roller skating, collecting vinyl records, and spending time with her cat, 李娜 (Li Na), who often joins her Zoom calls.