Student ambassadors are an integral component of the New Jersey Institution for Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH) mission of collective success, interdisciplinary and community responsibility. Students selected as ambassadors are undergraduates in the Nutritional Sciences Department who demonstrate professionalism and dedication to the fields of food, nutrition, and health. These students have the opportunity to represent the IFNH at various meetings and events, as well as communicate and market the IFNH to students, stakeholders at Rutgers, and to the New Jersey community at large.
In October, the student ambassadors received funding from the Institute to attend and present their research at the 2014 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Atlanta, GA. The research presented by the students included: “Comparison of Risky Eating Behaviors Between College-Age Males and Females” presented by Mary Tursi, “The Influence of Specific Labels on College-Aged Students Food Choices and Taste Preferences” presented by Rebecca Tonnessen and Jesse Tannehill, and “The Fry Spy: The Accuracy of Served Portion Sizes Compared to the Advertised Size” presented by Alexa Essenfeld and Miranda Schlitt.
Each of the student ambassadors took a few moments to reflect and share about their experience at the conference.
Mary Tursi (SEBS 2015) commented, “I truly enjoyed the whole conference, but what will leave a lasting imprint was the ability to present the research we worked so hard on. There were several nutrition educators who stopped by the poster and were genuinely impressed with our research and its importance. Several were intrigued enough to want to replicate the study within their own universities. At that moment, I couldn’t help but think of the IFNH core value of collective success. This whole conference echoed to me the principles and mission in which the IFNH stands for. I felt very proud representing the IFNH and Rutgers University.”
Jesse Tannehill (SEBS 2015) felt, “It was a pleasure being exposed to such a variety of nutrition students and professionals. From undergraduate students to research dietitians with PhD’s, the Food, Nutrition Conference & Expo was a remarkable platform that allowed us, as students, the opportunity to mingle and grow from our more established peers. Many of the information sessions were filled with practicing RDs and other nutrition professionals all eager to hear presentations on gut microbiota, ketogenic diets, and other “hot” topics in the nutrition world. After speaking with these professionals at the conclusion of each session, the value of a Rutgers education was realized as we were not treated as students, but professionals. Perhaps the most exciting part of the trip was presenting our research. Explaining our findings to a genuinely interested crowd was exciting and a great way to put the IFNH and Rutgers on the radar of the nutrition world.”
Rebecca Tonnessen (SEBS 2016) added, “Attending the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo was a completely incredible experience and I am so grateful for the opportunity the Institute has given me by funding this trip. I met amazingly passionate people who exposed me to so many opportunities within the field of nutrition and health. Learning about current nutrition research was, for me, one of the most exciting parts of the conference. Conversing with professionals in this field gave me confidence that this is the path I want to take. Our poster presentation facilitated more interesting and insightful conversations with professionals and dietetic interns, and I was excited to share my research with others who were also interested in what I had done. With this experience I have learned so much and feel better equipped to navigate the rest of my undergraduate career.”
Alexa Essenfeld (SEBS 2015) said, “The most rewarding part about attending FNCE was how impressed conference attendees were at our level of professionalism and research abilities as undergraduates. Various RD’s, college professors, and nutrition professionals visited the poster session and learned about the research Miranda and I were presenting. They all expressed enthusiasm for our findings and then offered their own insight about how our research applied to their own experiences as a nutrition professional. Even though I may have been standing in front of my poster with the purpose of educating others, I ended up learning so much from everyone else. Over the course of the two hours, I received career path advice, insight from RD’s in the food service industry, and proposed research ideas from professors at other universities on how to continue and improve our research. The attention we received for being from Rutgers was such a positive experience as well. Everybody seemed to have a personal connection with Rutgers whether it was a family member or friend that had attended, or their familiarity with Rutgers as a strong research institute. The positive impression we made through sharing our Rutgers student experience with people from all over the US really demonstrated the incredible impact the Institute will have on a national level.”
Miranda Schlitt (SEBS 2016) commented, “I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to be able to attend and present my research at the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo this year. I was able to meet and interact with professionals in all areas in the field of nutrition and receive feedback for future research projects. The opportunity for undergraduates such as myself to present research at a conference such as this is not only a privilege but a great insight into the many branches of nutrition. My favorite part of the conference was presenting the Fry Spy study along with Alexa Essenfeld. We received a wonderful response to our results and were commended for beginning research as undergraduates. Over the course of the poster presentation we had spoken to many nutrition professionals and professors from various universities who discussed their areas of expertise and offered advice from their past experiences. I would have never been able to meet so many amazing people if I had not attended FNCE. Attending the conference this year not only solidified my passion for nutrition but also inspired me to continue reaching for success. I cannot express my thanks enough to the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health for allowing me to attend FNCE and I hope to continue to represent the Institute in the future.”