5 App State faculty share takeaways from BRIDGES women’s leadership program

BOONE, NC — For nearly 30 years, the University of North Carolina System has supported the professional development of women in higher education by offering the BRIDGES Academic Leadership for Women program, and application information for BRIDGES 2022 is now available.

Five App State faculty were accepted into and participated in the 2021 BRIDGES program:

  • Melissa Bryan, senior lecturer in the Department of Nutrition and Health Care Management and director of App State’s undergraduate nutrition and foods program, Beaver College of Health Sciences (BCHS).
  • Dr. Melissa Gutschall, professor in the Department of Nutrition and Health Care Management and director of the dietetics concentration in App State’s master’s program in nutrition, BCHS.
  • Dr. Lakshmi Iyer, professor in the Department of Computer Information Systems and acting associate dean for graduate programs and research, Walker College of Business.
  • Dr. Amy Milsom, professor in and chair of the Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling, Reich College of Education.
  • Dr. Trina Palmer, professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences.

Sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, BRIDGES is an inclusive professional development program for women in higher education who seek to gain or strengthen their academic leadership capabilities. It is designed to help women identify, understand and build their leadership roles in academia.

Through the program, participants worked toward the following:

  • Developing insights into leadership, with a particular focus on the special skills and attributes women bring to their leadership roles.
  • Acquiring an understanding of the many faces of colleges and universities.
  • Refining and improving their cross-cultural communication skills.
  • Creating a program of personal and professional development to benefit themselves and their institutions.

Last fall, participants in the 2021 BRIDGES program engaged in four weekend sessions focused on topics such as organizational structure and behavior, financial resources, human resources, implicit bias, networking and strategic negotiations.

About the participants

Appalachian State University’s Melissa Bryan. Photo by Chase Reynolds

Melissa Bryan

Prior to joining the App State faculty, Bryan spent five years as a clinical dietitian at the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System while also teaching as an adjunct. She has been a registered dietitian since 1999 and was a certified nutrition support clinician from 2010–15.

Bryan said, through the BRIDGES program, “I learned that all faculty have unique styles of leadership and that I need to enhance my strengths and be willing to be uncomfortable — but I can still be true to myself in a leadership role. Additionally, you can always be a leader in any role; it does not require that you be at the top of any organization.”

At App State, Bryan teaches courses in medical nutrition therapy, nutrition and health, and more.

Her interests are in the areas of eating disorders, sports nutrition and nutrition support. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Nutrition Dietetics Educators and Preceptors Practice Group.

Bryan holds a master’s degree in allied health sciences with a concentration in sports nutrition from Georgia State University and a baccalaureate in nutrition from David Lipscomb University.

Return to list

View larger image

Appalachian State University’s Dr. Melissa Gutschall. Photo by Chase Reynolds

Dr. Melissa Gutschall

At App State, Gutschall has taught nutrition for 13 years at the undergraduate and graduate levels and served as director of the dietetics concentration in the nutrition master’s program for four years. She also serves as a coordinator of the capstone experience for senior students.

After the program completed the BRIDGES, Gutschall said she is more focused on the present, “leading as a strong professor, researcher, health professional and community collaborator.” Additionally, she was able to explore her “extreme passion for community work and applying my leadership skills through advocacy for vulnerable populations,” she shared.

Gutschall has been a registered dietitian for 20 years and continues to practice clinically on an interdisciplinary team that provides care for children with special needs in the Appalachian region.

Her current research is aimed at using her experience to bridge the gap between food insecurity and illness in the rural population of Watauga County through a community-centered health initiative funded by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, in collaboration with Boone’s Hunger and Health Coalition and the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

She holds a doctorate in nutritional sciences from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in nutrition from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Return to list

View larger image

Appalachian State University’s Dr. Lakshmi Iyer. Photo by Marie Freeman

Dr. Lakshmi Iyer

For more than a decade, Iyer has been involved in a community-engaged outreach and scholarship that further the role of women in information technology (IT). She has received funding from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), National Center for Women in IT, Lincoln Financial, Alex Lee Inc., Lowe’s Companies Inc., and from other foundations to offer STEM (science, technology, engineering and math ) events for young women and diverse youth.

Iyer described the 2021 BRIDGES program as an “intense and emotional journey” through which she explored her strengths, as well as opportunities for self-improvement. “The experiences from BRIDGES have helped me increase my self-awareness, build my confidence and push myself beyond my comfort zones — to face challenges in my own journey and to be a better listener and a more effective leader,” Iyer said.

Iyer is the founder and director of IT is for Girls — an outreach program for middle and high school girls that aims to increase their awareness about education and career paths in computing. She also founded App State’s Innovate for Good initiative, which aims to increase diverse students’ awareness about STEM education and career paths.

In 2021, Iyer received a National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant for her three-year project titled Increasing the Participation and AdvanCemenT of Women in Information Technology, or ImPACT IT. She is performing research aimed at fostering gender equity in IT as part of the project.

Iyer’s research interests are in the areas of emerging technologies and their impact on organizations and users and social inclusion in computing. She earned her doctorate from the University of Georgia and her master’s degree from the University of Alabama.

Return to list

View larger image

Appalachian State University’s Dr. Amy Milsom. Photo by Chase Reynolds

Dr. Amy Milsom

Milsom joined App State’s faculty in 2019, as chair of the Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling. She is a licensed professional counselor supervisor and K–12 school counselor, and in 2017 she received the American Counseling Association Fellow award, recognizing her leadership and service in counseling.

She said one of her biggest takeaways from the 2021 BRIDGES program was the development of a personal mission statement — “why I do what I do” — that she refers to often. “I believe that reminding myself on a regular basis of what really matters to me and what outcomes I hope to see as a result of my efforts will help me be intentional and maintain a high level of motivation,” she said.

Milsom’s research centers around college, career and postsecondary transition planning, with an emphasis on students with disabilities. She also conducts research related to counselor preparation and professionalism.

She earned a D.Ed. in counselor education, an M.Ed. in counselor education-school counseling and a BA in psychology, all from Pennsylvania State University.

Return to list

View larger image

Appalachian State University’s Dr. Trina Palmer. Photo by Chase Reynolds

Dr. Trina Palmer

Palmer, who joined App State’s faculty in 2004, said the BRIDGES activities she engaged in provided her the opportunity to learn more about her strengths and how she can best contribute to both App State and the university’s mathematical sciences department. “The program also forced me to think deeply about my work values ​​and how to focus in those areas,” she added.

Palmer serves as the transfer director in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, coordinating events for new and potential transfer students and advocating for these students’ specific needs. She is also a co-leader of App State’s The Appalachian High Achievers in STEM — a National Science Foundation-funded scholarship program that provides financial assistance to academically gifted students who intend to major in a STEM discipline at App State.

Additionally, she is a co-director of the SOAR (STEM Opportunities Are Realized) summer bridge program at App State, which helps underprepared, incoming first-year students strengthening their math and chemistry skills before beginning their first semester at App State.

Palmer has more than 20 years of teaching experience, ranging from middle school to graduate-level courses. She is particularly interested in engaging her students with sustainability topics. Her mathematics interests lie in numerical linear algebra applied to astronomical and medical imaging. Palmer earned her doctorate from Emory University and her master’s degree in mathematics from App State.

Return to list

What do you think?

Share your feedback on this story.

The Center for Academic Excellence supports the University of North Carolina’s BRIDGES Academic Leadership for Women program. BRIDGES is an inclusive professional development program for women in higher education who seek to gain or strengthen their academic leadership capabilities. It is designed to help women identify, understand, and build their leadership roles in the academy.

'Leading in a Time of Transformation': 4 App State faculty selected for women's leadership development program

July 22, 2020

Appalachian’s Dr. Megen Culpepper, Dr. Leah Hamilton, Dr. Vicky Klima and Dr. Rachel Wilson have been accepted into the 2020 BRIDGES Academic Leadership for Women program. The theme of this year’s program is “Leading in a Time of Transformation.”

About Appalachian State University

As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.

Leave a Comment