Who We Are

Miriam E. Nelson, PhD
Founder and Director, StrongWomen Initiative

Miriam Nelson, PhD is professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and founder and director of the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention at Tufts University.

As a leader in research targeting women’s health, Dr. Nelson has published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and elsewhere on the impact of both nutrition and exercise on the prevention of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and arthritis. Based on her seminal study on the benefits of strength training for older women and subsequent innovative research, Dr. Nelson has published nine books including Strong Women Stay Young and four other New York Times bestsellers. These books, published in fourteen languages, have sold more than a million copies worldwide. Her tenth book, The Social Network Diet: Change Yourself, Change the World, will be published September 2011. Dr. Nelson’s research has been the foundation of the StrongWomen Program, a community based nutrition and exercise program for midlife and older women currently being implemented in over thirty-five states.

As founder and director of the John Hancock Research Center, Dr. Nelson has assembled a world-class faculty and staff focused on innovative research, training future leaders, and influencing public policy to improve the nation’s food and physical environment. Through its research and outreach, the center has trained over 5,600 allied health professionals and community partners to implement healthy change in their communities. Tens of thousands of individuals from forty states have participated directly in the Children in Balance and StrongWomen research initiatives. First Lady Michelle Obama highlighted the center’s work at the Lets Move launch as best practices for community change.

In addition to her academic work, Dr. Nelson has contributed broadly to public policy initiatives and public relations. In 2007 and 2008 Dr. Nelson served as the vice chair of the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee for the US Department of Health and Human Services. Most recently, she served on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for the US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. She has appeared in her own PBS special entitled Strong Women Live Well and has been featured on other television and radio shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC Nightly News, CNN, Fresh Air, and the Discovery Channel.

Dr. Nelson has received numerous fellowships and awards for her work. She was awarded a prestigious Congressional Research Fellowship in 1987 and worked as US Senator Leahy’s Legislative Assistant on Health and Human Services. In 1994, she received a Brookdale National Fellowship and in 1997 a Bunting Fellowship from Radcliffe College. In 2006, Dr. Nelson received the Honors award from the American Medical Writers Association and in 2008 she received the University of Vermont’s Alumni Achievement Award.

The StrongWomen Team

Valerie Clark, MS, RD
Project Coordinator, StrongWomen – Healthy Hearts

Valerie Clark is the project coordinator for the national dissemination of StrongWomen – Healthy Hearts. Valerie received her MS in nutrition from Case Western Reserve University and her BS in nutrition from Cornell University. Valerie has worked at the John Hancock Research Center since 2007 on projects focusing on childhood obesity prevention and more recently, on adult fitness.

Sara Folta, PhD
Assistant Professor
Research Manager, StrongWomen – Healthy Hearts

Sara Folta is an Assistant Professor at the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Her most recent research working with Dr. Miriam Nelson has involved evaluating and disseminating the StrongWomen – Healthy Hearts community based program to reduce risk of heart disease in mid-life and older women.

Dr. Folta has a research interest in intervention strategies to promote positive behavior change in the areas of physical activity and nutrition and has expertise in the use of psychological theory to create behavior change in individuals. She has conducted behavioral research with both children and older adults and is an active member of the International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, the Society for Behavioral Medicine, the American Society for Nutrition, and the Society for Nutrition Education. Dr. Folta received a B.A. in biology from Middlebury College; an M.S. in cell and molecular biology from the University of Vermont; and a Ph.D. in nutrition from Tufts University.

Rebecca Seguin, PhD, CSCS
Assistant Professor (Cornell University)
Manager of Training and Dissemination, StrongWomen Strength Training

Rebecca Seguin co-wrote the StrongWomen Strength Training curriculum and managed StrongWomen from 2003-2008. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. She is Principal Investigator of the StrongWomen Healthy Hearts Follow-up Study, and co-investigator on ongoing StrongWomen research initiatives. She also conducts StrongWomen Ambassador trainings and StrongWomen Strength Training Workshops with partners across the US.

Dr. Seguin has degrees in exercise physiology (B.S.) and nutrition communications (M.S.), and she received her doctorate in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. She is lead author of the booklet Growing Stronger: Strength Training for Older Adults, and she holds a certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Certified Strength and Condition Specialist (CSCS). She develops exercise programs for healthy midlife and older adults as well as individuals with arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic conditions.