Empowering the Next Generation of Nutrition Professionals

By: Emilia Gomez and Giselle Garcia, Fall 2023 WHISK Ambassadors (and Jamie Kubota, WHISK Director)

NUFS 192, the senior capstone field experience, is a prime example of experiential learning provided to undergraduate students in the Department of Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging.  Completed during one of their last two semesters, students self-place into volunteer or paid positions that augment their academic coursework and allow them to build technical skills and confidence, build their resume and professional network, explore areas of industry, and prepare for entry level work after graduation.  Potential sites include: hospital nutrition and food services or skilled nursing facilities, school districts, senior nutrition programs, food banks, restaurants, food science labs, private practice, and cooking classes and camps for children to name a few. In addition to an exciting array of off-campus opportunities, other students fulfill their field experience on-campus as CHEW instructors teaching cooking classes for their peers, working with SJSU athletics in support our student athletes, or within the NUFS&PKG department serving as WHISK Ambassadors.  Senior nutrition student and WHISK Ambassador, Emilia Gomez, shares her experience:

As senior nutrition students at San José State University, we have the opportunity to join and become Ambassadors for the program, Wellness and Health Inspired Student Kitchens (WHISK). WHISK allowed us to fulfill our NUFS 192 field experience on campus and to create a better connection with our fellow San José State students. As WHISK Ambassadors, it is important to understand the purpose of the nutrition program and the targeted audience. In this case, we provide student-led nutrition education and cooking demonstrations for the purpose of promoting healthy eating behaviors among the San José State community.

As part of WHISK, we plan events and conduct collaborative projects with other campus programs such as Spartan Eats, the SJSU Campus Community Garden, the NUFS Club, and SJSU Cares, to name a few. As our target audience is primarily college students, we strive to provide resources and create nutrition education that is appropriate for both on-campus and off-campus students. The nature of our work can vary depending on the specific event but some tasks include designing educational like fliers and recipe cards, leading online meetings, and holding tabling events that communicate essential nutrition information to diverse audiences. We also have the opportunity to conduct virtual cooking demonstrations via Zoom doing everything from planning the logistics of the event to engaging with participants. Called WHISK Cooks!, WHISK provides Hello-Fresh-style ingredient bags for the first 20 students to pick up a bag.  In each bag are the recipe(s) and all the ingredients needed to make each recipe. Participants then Zoom in to cook together or follow along from the comfort of their dorm room or home kitchen. Aimed at increasing cooking confidence and self-efficacy, these events also help address food insecurity among college students. WHISK also focuses on engaging with the San José State community by participating in events with other programs on campus to raise awareness about the importance of sustainability in food, reducing food waste, and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.

“Our professional development is enhanced by receiving hands-on experience and exposure to nutrition education. This allows us, as nutrition students, to apply our knowledge and skills to designing educational materials, conducting events online and in person, and engaging with diverse populations in our community. With this field experience, we are able to gain a better understanding of specific interests within the broader field of nutrition, which will allow us to make informed career choices as we graduate and enter the professional world.”

WHISK Ambassador, Giselle Garcia, echoes similar sentiments, adding “Although our event participants do not see the background work put into all these events, WHISK is able to provide experiences that help nutrition students to learn new skills that can be applied to future jobs.  In my opinion, WHISK is a small golden gem in the Nutrition department looking to help students inside and outside of the department to develop healthy relationships with food.”

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