Doctoral Student and Graduate Research Associate
Chapter: University of Florida
Class/Semester: Charter Class, Fall 2008
Major/Minor: B.S. Nutritional Sciences, M.S. Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, Ph.D. Student in Public Health
Hobbies: Spending time with friends and family, volunteering with non-profits (food pantries, Habitat for Humanity), exploring nature trails/hiking, cooking, and traveling
Q. What do you do for a living now?
A. I’m a full time student and work part time as a graduate research associate for the Department of Community and Family Health at USF.
Q. Where are you employed?
A. University of South Florida
Q. What is your job description?
A. As a graduate research associate, my tuition is waived and I work on different projects as a member of the Socio-Cultural Determinants and Health Communications Research Lab. In the past year, I have been working on a project to understand the supportive care needs of female, cervical cancer patients. We have been working with the Institutional Review Board to get approval for the research project, recruiting patients, conducting interviews, analyzing data, and now in the process of preparing manuscripts for publication. My research interests are in sustainable food systems, nutrition, and chronic disease prevention. What I like best in my job is that public health is very practice-oriented and I’m able to work with many community organizations to apply research-based and community-driven approaches to their work. I’m currently the Food Recovery Work Team Chair for the Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger, and we’re working on the Waste No Food mobile app to increase food donations from restaurants to hunger-relief organizations in the Tampa Bay community.
Q. Did you ever envisage doing this while you were in school?
A. Definitely not! I used to be scared of public speaking and now I want to be a professor teaching at a university. I never realized how much I like being in the classroom and working with college students to help them carve out their academic and professional careers. And whoever thought they would like research, but I love it! Given my academic and professional background, I am also interested in working for an international non-profit/non-governmental organization to combat global poverty and food insecurity. I never really planned out for my career to work out this way, but it’s come together nicely and each new opportunity kind of just opens up new doors for me. It kind of makes sense though because I’ve always had a passion for volunteering and doing community service; perhaps, finding what you love and have an interest in can push you into the direction of your future career!
Q. How did you become interested in your field?
A. In my Master’s program, we were required to be a Teaching Assistant to get our programs paid for so I didn’t have to pay for my Master’s or Ph.D. program. I started to realize that I really like teaching and I love it when people start to understand and absorb the information; I love education. After my Master’s program, I worked as a county faculty member for the University of Florida and I taught nutrition and health in various informal settings such as domestic violence shelters, community centers, or other non-profits. That’s when I realized that I really like working in the community, I love teaching and learning, and I want to be able to share science-based information with the greater community and world.
Q. What have been the biggest challenges in your career?
A. Not knowing what the next step was and what direction I should go. Everyone has a fear of the unknown, but I think if we are always proactive and take the initiative to find opportunities whether it is volunteering or just attending an informational session, we will always succeed. Things happen when we least expect it, and we should never take any opportunity for granted because that might just lead you to a job or another network. And I think reassuring parents and family that the choices I make are right for me. I wanted to become a nurse and my mom said no. People questioned if I should do a Master’s instead of applying for dental school. I pushed on and followed what I believed was best for me, and I think I’m doing okay now.
Q. What do you wish you had known in college to better prepare you for the professional world?
A. I wish I took more advantage of workshops, trainings, and other resources on campus. Don’t be afraid to go to a meeting alone or just talk with random faculty/staff - take advantage of those around you because they want to help.
Q. What did you do in the year immediately after graduating?
A. I went straight into my Master’s degree after graduating with my Bachelor’s. I took an “easy A” course my last semester and fell in love with the Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, so I applied for the Master’s and got in. After my Master’s degree, I took a job with the University of Florida as the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent in Polk County, and I taught health and nutrition classes for the community.
Q. What has been your most memorable aKDPhi moment thus far?
A. There has been many laughs and tears since 2007, but what is most memorable is when we got full-fledged status in 2016. It’s not that one memory trumps another, but I think it’s the culmination of all that aKDPhi means to us. From the Florida sisterhoods to charter trips and awkward moments meeting new sisters from your chapter, aKDPhi has been such a huge part of me. When your chapter is all huddled up with 30+ girls crammed in a hotel room and you’re waiting for the outcome of status, you become one again and we’re all in it together. Feelings of pride, joy, accomplishment, success, and all the memories of aKDPhi just filled me up - that moment they told us we were Alpha Delta chapter.
Q. How has being a sister of aKDPhi impacted your career and who you are today?
A. Of the 15 charters, I was the second youngest joining as a freshman, and I was always seen as the immature, childish one. But as I got more involved, the older girls invested in me and taught me how to take on leadership positions and succeed. aKDPhi helps to shape you by giving you opportunities to lead, learn, and develop. I became VPI, VPE, President, and later President of the Alumnae chapter. While we might think that these opportunities are just college level positions, they taught me how to take initiative, network with others, speak publicly, program plan, manage conflict, and so much more. I do believe that because of these skills that I learned from these positions, I have been able to become and succeed as a leader in my career today.
Q. What advice would you give to the actives who aspire to follow the same career path?
A. My path was definitely unplanned, but I would always encourage more education. I started as a pre-dental student majoring in Nutrition, and upon graduating with my Bachelor’s, my back-up was a full-time manager at a yogurt shop or accepting a full-time, unpaid internship with Children’s Home Society. For someone who wants to pursue a Master’s degree, I would definitely say go for it. Graduate school is so different than undergraduate, and it challenges your critical thinking and really gives you a deeper understanding of content that not only makes you more knowledgeable about your field but also more marketable.
Q. What would you say to a prospective girls interested in becoming aKDPhi?
A. Me included, we hear, “I never thought I would be in a sorority.” Yes, aKDPhi is a sorority, but it’s not what we typically think. Being in aKDPhi is a national network that benefits you professionally; a family that you belong to on campus; and best of all, it is a group of best friends that you have gained and continue to keep in touch with forever. It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, and I wouldn’t be who I am without this experience!