Dean's Advisory Council

FSU Deans Advisory Council group photo

Juan Diaz


Juan Diaz serves as Senior Vice President and General Counsel for The HCI Group, a healthcare IT consulting services provider based in Jacksonville and leads all corporate legal activities including government and commercial contracts, business transactions, and legal and regulatory compliance matters. He also oversees international strategic business development with IT consulting firms, hardware providers and application developers to enhance the company’s go-to market approach and service offerings, with specific focus on the Middle East, Pacific and Asian markets. Diaz received his undergraduate degree in Economics and International Affairs in 1998 from Florida State University and his law degree from the University of Florida’s College of Law in 2003. Diaz was a founding co-chair of IMPACTjax, the young professionals’ initiative of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce and has served the City in a variety of roles, including the Cultural Services Grant Panel, the Public Service Grant Council, and the Convention Center Task Force. He has supported a number of philanthropic and community endeavors including Board service for the United Way of Northeast Florida, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida, Dreams Comes True, and Theater of Jacksonville. He is married to Kristen, a television reporter and freelance producer and together they have a 2 year old son, Daniel.


Valerie Boyd

Valerie Boyd has thirty years of experience in real estate development and banking, specializing in land development and rezoning. She has been involved as a community and political leader in Florida including having held appointments by three of Florida’s Governors and previously serving as a commissioner for the Florida Transportation Commission. Valerie has chaired and served on numerous state and national environmental sustainability commissions including the Collier County Economic Development Council, South Florida Water Management Governing Board, Florida Transportation Commission, Sustainable South Florida Commission, CREW Land & Water Trust, and Big Cypress Basin Board.

Additionally, Valerie is a founding member and trustee of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, trustee and Vice Chair of the Grant Committee for the Naples Children & Education Foundation, and a founding member of the Florida Gulf Coast University Foundation and Immokalee Foundation.

Valerie has a degree in dietetics from Florida State University and is a graduate of the Leadership Florida and Leadership Collier programs.


Deirdra Chester, Ph.D., RDN

Deirdra Chester is the agency Science Advisor for USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in the Office of the Administrator. Her primary role is coordinating any science/biodefense issues between the APHIS and USDA, the USDA Office of the Chief Scientist, and the USDA Office of Homeland Security. She represents APHIS on the USDA Science Council. Prior to joining APHIS she served as the National Program Leader for Applied Nutrition Research in the Division of Nutrition, Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA. In her role as the National Program Leader of Applied Nutrition Research, she provided leadership in identifying emerging issues of national importance, program reviews, and grants management in the area of nutrition, functional components of food, and childhood obesity.

She currently holds membership in the following professional organizations: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Public Health Association and the Institute of Food Technologist. Dr. Chester has spoken both nationally and internationally on nutrition topics. Dr. Chester is on the editorial board of the Journal of Obesity and Chronic Disease.

She holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Nutrition from Florida International University where she was awarded the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship and was in the inaugural class of the Gates Millennial Scholars. She holds a Master of Science degree in Food and Nutrition Science and a baccalaureate degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Florida State University.


Betty Crowe

Betty Williams Crowe is a 1969 graduate with a B.S. in Home Economics Education & Extension from the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University. She was a Senior Extension Home Economist in Calhoun County (Blountstown, FL) and Food Service Vocational High School Teacher in Charleston, SC. She has continued to joyfully apply her education within her home and family life throughout the ensuing years.

Betty has also worked in the banking industry, state government and has held numerous volunteer and leadership positions in her churches, schools and communities. Betty and her husband John (B.S. 69′, M.S. 71′, FSU) have a son, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters in Tallahassee and a son in Los Angeles, CA.


Kevin Hayes, DO, MS, FACC

Kevin Hayes obtained both his bachelor and masters (B.S. Education 1992 and M.S. Exercise Physiology 1994) degrees from Florida State University. During his time there he was also a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity. After graduating, he worked as a clinical specialist with Medtronic Inc. programming and analyzing implantable pacemakers and ICDs before deciding to further continue his education. At that point he obtained his doctorate in osteopathic medicine from Nova Southeastern University (NSU). Hayes completed his residency at The Johns Hopkins/Sinai program in internal medicine and his fellowship in cardiology at Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, N.J. He has worked in private practice in Jacksonville, Florida since 2008. Currently he is working as a founding partner at First Coast Heart and Vascular Center and also serves as Vice President of Medical Executive Committee for Specialty Hospital of Jacksonville. Hayes lives in Jacksonville with his wife, Ashley (who is also an FSU grad, Human Sciences-2005’) and their two children, Langley and Easton. In his free time he enjoys going to the gulf, exercising and traveling.


Peggy Hsieh, Ph.D.

Yun-Hwa Peggy Hsieh received her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Taiwan, her M.S. in Animal Science from Purdue University, and Ph.D. in Food Science from the Florida State University. She joined the faculty in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at Auburn University, Alabama in 1993. After ten years of service at Auburn, she accepted a faculty position in the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at FSU.

Her primary research interest has been developing rapid immunochemical methods for ensuring food safety and quality. Her work at both universities has resulted in 13 patented and patent-pending technologies. At least 6 of her innovative technologies developed with her research team have been commercialized for rapid detection of adulterated food and food allergens. She retired from FSU in 2016 and received a Professor Emerita status to continue some work on licensed projects. Hsieh has been an invited speaker to ~80 national and international conferences. She is an elected Fellow of the International Academy of Food Science & Technology (2007) and a Fellow of Institute of Food Technologists (2008).

She is married to her husband, Ping, of 44 years. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.


Sunny Ilyas

Sunny Ilyas is the Founder & CEO for Vale Food Co, a rapidly growing healthy, fast-casual restaurant in Florida that offers build-your-own protein bowls, açaí bowls, poke bowls, smoothies as well as catering services. As a student at Florida State University in 2014, Sunny set out to solve the problem of making healthy food delicious, convenient, affordable offering a wide variety of options with his vision for Vale Food Co.

With limited business knowledge and start-up money, the passion to make a difference propelled Sunny forward through the trials and tribulations of balancing going to college, working three jobs and getting a start-up business operating. He was studying Exercise Physiology and focused on health and nutrition at Florida State University. Over time, he noticed there was a gap in Tallahassee’s market for healthy food options. In 2014, he started off by cooking and operating a meal delivery service, which grew to feeding400 subscribers. In 2016, he pivoted into launching the fast casual restaurant model in Tallahassee by opening his first Vale location in Collegetown. With the success of the college market, he opened two locations in 2017–Gainesville and Tampa. In the same year, he was awarded State of Florida Young Entrepreneur of the Year. The growth continued in 2018 with the opening of a fourth location in Jacksonville. Vale was honored for Fast Casual Movers & Shakers Top 100 Brand in the U.S. In 2019, he opened a location in Fort Lauderdale and another in Tallahassee totaling six locations to date.


Tabitha Johnson, Ph.D.

Tabitha Johnson is a marriage and family therapist, author and speaker. She received her Master’s of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from Valdosta State University and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy from Florida State University.

During her career, she has served as a couple and family educator, professor, and early childhood specialist. She helped establish the Healthy Marriage Initiative for the state of Mississippi and worked to influence public policy. Currently, she works at Family Therapy Associates of Jacksonville, which she started. She uses proven methods and research-based methodologies to help clients receive meaningful treatment, as well as provides training and leadership to her team of therapists. For her work, she has appeared on a number of radio and TV segments, as well as recognized as one of Jacksonville’s best counselors by Three Best Rated.


Jennie Kitching, Ph.D.

Jennie Kitching earned her bachelor’s degree from East Texas State College and her master’s degree from the University of Tennessee before earning her Ph.D. from Florida State University. She spent her professional career working with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, serving as the Assistant Director for Home Economics before ultimately becoming the Associate Director for Human Sciences.

Her leadership has guided a number of organizations, included the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (formerly the American Home Economics Association), where she served as the Foundation President. She was also the chair for the Association of Administrators of Home Economics. Her work and service to the profession has earned her recognition as a distinguished alumnus, distinguished faculty, and a distinguished service award from East Texas State University. Florida State University also recognized her as an Outstanding Home Economics Alumnus.


Matthew Lee, M.D.

Matt Lee is an orthopedic surgeon and practices at the Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic. He also helps the sports medicine team at Florida State University, assisting athletes with spine and back related injuries.

After graduating from the College of Human Sciences with a degree in exercise science, Matt stayed at Florida State University for his medical training and earned his M.D. from the College of Medicine in 2006.


Justin Lewis, DPM, MS, FACFAS

Justin Lewis is a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon and the founder / owner of Maryland Foot and Ankle Specialists. He is an inaugural winner of the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship Seminole 100, which recognized the 100 fastest-growing FSU alumni-owned businesses in the U.S.

Justin obtained his B.S., magna cum laude, in 2002 and his M.S in 2004 in Exercise Physiology from Florida State University. After graduating, he obtained a second M.S. in Biomedical Sciences in 2006 and his Doctorate in Podiatric Medicine in 2008 from Barry University, graduating in the top 10 percentile in his class. He then went on to complete a 3 year residency in foot and ankle reconstructive surgery, obtained his board certification from the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and then became a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.

Justin is currently the Chief of Podiatry in the Department of Orthopedics at Carroll Hospital, Team Podiatrist for the Baltimore Orioles, and Company Podiatrist for the Baltimore Ballet. He is the President-Elect of the Maryland Podiatric Medical Association and held previous officer positions of Secretary and Treasurer. Justin is a medical consultant and faculty instructor for Arthrex, Inc., an orthopedic medical device company and leader in product development and medical education and he lectures nationally teaching the latest techniques and medical advancements in foot and ankle surgery.

He resides in Maryland with his wife, Dr. Tania Burinskas, 3 boys, 2 dogs, and 2 horses and spends his free time advocating for animal rescue.


Joyce Miles

Joyce Miles graduated from Purdue University and Florida State University. Joyce’s career encompassed many phases of education including teaching 7-12 home economics in Jacksonville, FL. She retired in 1997 from a long tenure as an education administrator in family and consumer sciences/career and technical education in Jacksonville.

During her retirement, Joyce has been an active volunteer with the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, particularly with the AAFCS Leadership Academy, which she helped found after the Centennial in 2009.   In preparation for the 100th Anniversary celebration, Joyce committed countless hours and traveled many miles to portray Ellen Richards, the founder of Home Economics, at the Centennial Celebrations.  Joyce and Ellen raised over $40,000 in support of a Leadership Endowment Fund.

Joyce served for eight years as a Trustee for the FSU Foundation where she was instrumental in forming the Women for FSU, a group designed to engage and support women who are friends of FSU. The fund currently has an endowment nearing $500,000, supporting the Women’s Leadership Institute at FSU. Joyce and her husband Bob have two endowed scholarships at Florida State.


Loretta Willis

Loretta J. Willis is a 1977 graduate with a B.S. from the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University. After enjoying a career with AT&T/Ameritech she has owned and operated her own company, Loretta’s Interior Design, LLC and since the early 1990’s and is currently based in Alpharetta, Georgia. Willis was an FSU Cheerleader and husband Ken, a Marching Chief. Loretta and Ken have three children (a current FSU student and two FSU graduates) and live in Roswell, Georgia.