The work of the BEACH Laboratory would not be possible without the support of many funding agencies, community partnerships, and collaborators. Click on the pictures below to learn more about our current and past funders, partners, and collaborators.
The BEACH Lab work would not be possible without the collaboration of colleagues across the United States and globally.
Gina Besenyi, MPH, PhD
Gina Besenyi is an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Kansas State University and Director of the Physical Activity Research in Community Settings (PARCS) Lab. Her research explores how built environments contribute to active living behaviors and population-level health outcomes across geographic and cultural contexts and how disparities within these relationships might be understood and rectified, including through citizen engagement in creating healthier communities. Within this broader field of environmental health promotion, she has a specific interest in the role of parks, green space, and recreational facilities, and how availability, accessibility, and quality of such community resources influence physical activity, especially among youth. As well, she is a burgeoning expert in how innovative technology such as geographic information systems and mobile applications can be utilized within this public health research agenda to promote community participation
Melissa Fair, MPH
Melissa Fair is a doctoral student in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior within the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Melissa also received her Masters of Public Health from the USC Arnold School of Public Health, and her Bachelors of Science degree in Health and Exercise Science from Furman University. Melissa is a Greenville, South Carolina native where she currently resides and works for LiveWell Greenville, a coalition of private and public partnerships focused on improving policies and environments that support healthy eating and active living. Currently she serves as LiveWell Greenville’s Evaluation Coordinator, as part of the DCH Partnerships in Improving Community Health (PICH) Grant. Melissa’s background includes coalition development with a focus on relationship building with community partners, as well as evaluating community based public health programs. In her spare time you are likely to find Melissa running, hanging out with her Labrador retriever rescue, reading good books, or eating really good food.
Marilyn Wende, MSPH
Marilyn is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the Ohio State University and Master of Science in Public Health from the Department of Epidemiology at the University of South Carolina. While earning her masters, she studied health behaviors and weight outcome for pregnant women and continued her education to focus more on her interests of physical activity and diet and how they related to obesity outcomes. She currently serves as a graduate research assistant for numerous projects within the BEACH Lab, including the ParkIndex project, Spartanburg Healthy Schools Initiative and the Rural Obesogenic Environments project. Marilyn enjoys riding her bike on the SC trails, doing yoga, gardening and anything else that involves being outside.
Ellen W. Stowe, MPH
Ellen is a doctoral student in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior in the Arnold School of Public Health and a Presidential Fellow at the University of South Carolina. While at the University of Georgia, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology, minor in Childhood and Family Development, and Master of Public Health from the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior. Ellen’s research interests stem from her experience working in the behavioral health field, as well as from her time spent studying the built environment, primarily neighborhood factors influencing mental health, physical activity, and obesity. She currently serves as a graduate research assistant for various projects within the BEACH lab. Ellen is an avid science fiction and fantasy reader, loves spending time outdoors with her husband and two dogs, Indiana and McCoy, and always enjoys traveling to new places.
Kara Davis, M.Ed
Kara is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Industrial Psychology from Northwest Missouri State University and Master of Education, Student Affairs Administration from Clemson University. She currently works in the Institute for the Advancement for Community Health (IACH) at Furman University in Greenville SC. As a team member of the IACH, she serves as the evaluation coordinator for the Medical Legal Partnership in the Upstate, a collaboration between Prisma Health, South Carolina Legal Services, and Furman University. Outside of work and studies, Kara enjoys running, cycling, cooking/eating all the delicious food, and enjoying time with her husband, two dogs: Ellie and Cora, and spoiled rotten cat, Leo.
Kelsey Thomas, MPH
Kelsey is a graduate student in the Department of Health Promotion, Education and Behavior at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Experimental Psychology at the University of South Carolina in May of 2021. Kelsey’s research interests stem from her experiences working with disadvantaged youth and observing health disparities in marginalized communities. She currently serves as a graduate research assistant for various projects in the BEACH Lab. In her free time, you are likely to find Kelsey reading, playing video games, or cooking up a big dinner.
Eleanor Witherspoon, BA
Eleanor is a senior Public Health major at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. She is also a Medical Humanities and Culture minor. Eleanor graduated in May 2023 and is taking a gap year before going to medical school. Eleanor is passionate about social determinants of health and health disparities. In her free time, Eleanor enjoys reading, hiking, and trying new restaurants with her friends.