Meet Our Staff



Leah Pylate, M.S., CHES

Leah Pylate is the Director of Health Promotion and Wellness for University Health Services. She holds a master's degree in both Health Promotion and Business Administration and has experience working in a number of health education settings including schools, worksites, community and university settings. She also has experience working with grant funded projects and is currently a Certified Health Education Specialist. She enjoys educating students on the importance of practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Professional Staff

JuLeigh Baker, M.S., CHES

JuLeigh Baker is a Health and Wellness Educator for University Health Services. Over the years she gained experiences in the fields of Alcohol and Drug Education, Tobacco Cessation, Cardiac Rehabilitation and General Health and Wellness. JuLeigh is a trained Tobacco Treatment Specialist and a Certified TIPPS Alcohol Intervention Trainer. She enjoys developing new and exciting programs, campaigns and programs for Mississippi State University’s students to become more knowledgeable about their health.

Santee Ezell-Johnson, MS, PCED, ICPS, CHES, CSP, CNP, CPT, CNC

Santee Ezell-Johnson is from Calhoun City, Mississippi. She serves as a Coordinator within the Division of Student Affairs at Mississippi State University. In her role, she manages a grant through the Department of Mental Health that focus on Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, Alcohol & Drug Prevention, and supports Collegiate Recovery. Her position also coordinates the MS Coalition of Partners in Prevention that consists of community colleges and universities across the state to reduce negative and risky behaviors on college campuses throughout Mississippi.

Santee earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and two minors: Nonprofit Management & Community Health Sciences from the University of Southern Mississippi. Later, she received a Master of Science in Community Development with an emphasis from Delta State University. Since college, she has done extensive community outreach and grant writing for over eight years in Community & Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Health Promotion, Diabetes, Juvenile Delinquency, Social Justice, Alcohol & Drug Education, Tobacco Cessation, STD/HIV/AIDS prevention throughout the state. She is a Certified Prevention Specialist, Certified TIPPS Alcohol Intervention Trainer, and a Certified Health Education Specialist. Through her work, Santee has worked to developed health equity strategies and community development projects for communities in Mississippi to improve the overall quality of life for all. Her goals is to use her knowledge and resources to enhance the prevention efforts and help improve the health of students at MSU.

Kim Kavalsky, M.S., L.P.C.

Kim Kavalsky is the coordinator of mental health outreach. She received her master's degree in Counselor Education with an emphasis in Community Counseling in 2003. Her past experience includes residential treatment facilities addressing chemical dependence and community mental health focusing on a vast array of mental health concerns. She received her professional licensure in 2005 and became a board qualified supervisor in 2008. Her goal is to bring awareness to issues of mental health and promote effective services to students.

Blake Schneider, M.A.

Blake Schneider is the Coordinator of the Collegiate Recovery Community. He received his master's in Communication Studies from the University of Alabama, with an emphasis in organizational communication. As a Graduate Teaching Assistant of public speaking he learned how to foster a collaborative environment among college students, and the qualities required to be an effective public speaker. He has experience working in recovery settings including recovery residences, inpatient programs, and the CRC at the University of Alabama. His goals include providing a true college experience to students of the CRC and recruiting new members from all walks of life.

Taylor VanDyk, RDN

Taylor VanDyk is a Registered Dietitian with the Department of Health Promotion & Wellness. She completed both her Bachelor of Science in Dietetics & Nutrition, and her dietetic internship at Central Michigan University. Her professional experience includes corporate wellness and fitness center management. She first became interested in nutrition when she worked in the fitness world as a certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor. Her goal is to help students gain access to reliable nutrition information, and empower them to be able to make healthy choices..

Administrative Assistant

Aretina Hankerson-Daniels, Administrative Assistant

Working in the Department of Health Education and Wellness allows me the opportunity to interact and assist the most important group at MSU, the students. I have a passion for working with people in the spirit of excellence with warmth and kindness. When I am not assisting students, faculty and staff, I enjoy being very active in my church, singing, reading, taking in movies and most of all administering love and compassion to all.

Grant Staff

Judy Smith

Judy Smith is the Program Coordinator for MSU on the Move Year 3, a grant funded by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of Mississippi. In her career as a public school teacher she has worked with the Office of Healthy Schools Grant through field day activities, nutrition awareness, everyday experiences of activities and interaction with the students to help promote health and wellness awareness. Judy's desire is for the students at Mississippi State University and the community to fully benefit from the programs and activities that will be provided through this grant.

Graduate Assistants

Magnolia Allen

Magnolia Allen is from Hattiesburg, MS. She obtained her Bachelor's Degree of Science in Nutrition at Mississippi State University May of 2017. She is currently seeking a Master's Degree of Science in Health Promotion. As of now, Magnolia is working as a Graduate Assistant for the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness. After the completion of her degree in Health Promotion, Magnolia plans to continue in Dietetics and obtain an internship to place her on the path in becoming a Registered Dietitian. Magnolia's dream job would be centered on anything and everything health. She hopes to work in a University setting so that she may be a resource to students. She is passionate about conservation and sustainability of the planet's resources. During her free time, Magnolia enjoys running, spending time with family, and sailing on the Gulf Coast.

Ffion Price

Ffion Price comes from the small town of Llandrindod Wells, Wales, U.K. She completed her undergraduate degree at Cardiff Metropolitan University in sports biomedicine and nutrition in 2015. She then came to the states, on scholarship, to run on the Track and Field team here at Mississippi State, where she completed her Master's degree in Kinesiology, focusing on Exercise physiology. She is currently studying her PhD in Exercise physiology with a concentration on supplementation and performance, while working as a graduate assistant within the department of Health Promotion and Wellness. Upon completing her PhD she wishes to travel back to the U.K. to become a university lecturer and/or work with athletes developing performance and studying physiology further. Her dream job would be working for Welsh Athletics assessing athlete's physiology to help them develop their performance, as well as becoming a professional runner herself.

Jonah Neville

Jonah Neville is from Mebane, North Carolina, and is pursuing a Master's Degree in Health Promotion, and currently working as a GA with the Health Service Volunteers. He obtained his Bachelors of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Jonah enjoys being a positive influence in the health and wellness community, and hopes to tackle a number of health issues during his career. In his spare time, Jonah enjoys playing tennis and spending time with friends and family.

Lisa Ziegler

Lisa Ziegler is a Graduate Assistant working with Health Promotion and Wellness primarily in the area of alcohol and drug prevention. She grew up in south Germany and came to the US to run Track and Cross Country at Mississippi State. In May 2018 she earned her Bachelor's degree in Economics and is pursuing a career in the health education/ health promotion field. Her interest in health and the health promotion field developed during her undergraduate studies at Mississippi State. She is looking forward to acquire important knowledge and skills through her classwork and work as a Graduate Assistant which she ultimately hopes to use to help people, particularly children and young adults, increase their overall health and well-being and prevent disease. As of right now Lisa is especially interested in the areas global health and mental health.

Student Workers

Meghin Smith


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