Student Ambassadors

The Institution for Food, Nutrition, and Health Student Ambassadors are an integral component of our mission of collective success, interdisciplinarity and community responsibility. Student Ambassadors will be called upon to represent the IFNH at various meetings and events, as well as communicate and market the IFNH to students, stakeholders at Rutgers University, and to the New Jersey community at large. Student Ambassadors will also play a role in assisting with business models of the Institute, such as Harvest. Those selected for the position of Student Ambassador are undergraduate students within the Nutritional Sciences Department at Rutgers University who have demonstrated professionalism and dedication to the fields of food, nutrition, and health. Each ambassador brings their unique Rutgers student experience to the IFNH as it continues to expand and serve as a state, national and global model for change and success.

Current Ambassadors

Photo: Kiran Ali

Kiran Ali is a third-year student at Rutgers University majoring in Nutritional Sciences in the Dietetics option. Her interest in healthy dining and nutrition began as a child from helping her family in the kitchen. The idea behind studying dietetics came about after learning of certain chronic health ailments that ran in her family, such as diabetes. One day Kiran hopes to work on an individual level counseling and educating people on how to have a well-balanced diet as well as owning a small cafe focused on plant-based foods. Currently, Kiran is a Student Nutritionist for the Healthy Dining Team where she conducts research and educates her peers on healthy lifestyle choices. In addition to the Healthy Dining team, Kiran conducts research for the Addiction Psychiatry Division of Robert Wood Johnson and volunteers in the Nutritional Department. She is humbled to be a part of the team of Ambassadors at the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health. In her spare time, Kiran enjoys cooking, sightseeing and certainly treating herself to the many cuisines around campus and the tri-state area.

Photo: Brenda Borba

Brenda Borba is a fourth-year student at Rutgers University majoring in Nutritional Sciences in the Dietetics option. After completing her Dietetic Internship, she hopes to pursue a career as a Registered Dietitian and help people one-on-one with their diets while showing them a healthy lifestyle is attainable, enjoyable and affordable. Currently, Brenda is a Student Nutritionist for the Healthy Dining Team where she conducts research, writes research-based newsletters, and educates her peers through interactive booths held in the dining halls. In addition to the Healthy Dining Team, Brenda is part of the Nutrition Advocate program, which is a division of the Health Outreach, Promotion and Education at Rutgers. She is honored to be the Student Director for the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health. This allows her to lead the team of student ambassadors and attend professional events where she is able to represent the IFNH. In her free time, Brenda enjoys discovering local markets and 'hidden gem' restaurants in the city. She also enjoys dining at Harvest, where her favorite dish is the orange and pomegranate marinated chicken and Tabouli salad.

Photo: Chelsea Cotugno.

Chelsea Cotugno is a fourth-year student at Rutgers University majoring in Nutritional Sciences in the Dietetics option with a minor in Psychology. She first became interested in nutrition in seventh grade, when her father was hospitalized and was prescribed a cardiac diet. After graduating from Rutgers, Chelsea plans to complete her Dietetic Internship and a Master of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences. She aspires to pursue a career as a Registered Dietitian in a clinical setting such as Gastroenterology or Long Term Care. Chelsea has been an Undergraduate Research Assistant for Dr. Carol Byrd-Bredbenner with The HomeStyles Project since she first came to Rutgers. Now, Chelsea also works as a Student Nutritionist for the Healthy Dining Team where she educates students on healthy eating in the dining halls and conducts research under the direction of Dr. Peggy Policastro. Chelsea is grateful for the opportunity to represent the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health as the initiative to make New Jersey the "Healthy State".

Photo: Sara Faghani.

Sara Faghani is currently a senior at Rutgers University pursuing a major in Food Science. In her remaining time here at Rutgers, she aims to continue her involvement in various research projects in addition to her studies. Sara currently works in Dr. Paul Takhistov's laboratory working on biodegradable films for food fortification and functionality. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to spend time doing industry based research before pursuing an advanced degree. Her role in the IFNH ambassador's position includes working with other students to conduct research, while simultaneously maintaining an interdisciplinary approach in translating information about nutrition, health, and well-being. She is passionate in her aim to spread awareness about current issues in food, and she hopes to reach people on both a large and small scale. Sara feels incredibly honored to represent the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health (IFNH) and anticipates the contributions she hopes to make in fulfilling the institute's mission.

Photo: Carly Harris.

Carly Harris is a fourth-year student at Rutgers University, pursuing a major in Nutritional Sciences-Dietetics option. She hopes to complete a Dietetic Internship and plans to work as a clinical dietitian, specializing in pediatrics. Carly is the Student Director of the Rutgers Healthy Dining Team, mentored by Dr. Peggy Policastro, where she shares her passion for nutrition, health, and wellness with her college-aged peers. She has presented nutrition research at the Aresty Undergraduate Research Symposium, NJDA Annual meeting, and twice at the Food, Nutrition, Conference, and Expo in Boston (2016) and Chicago (2017). This year, Carly also serves as Secretary on the e-board of Kappa Omicron Nu, the nutrition honor society. Over the past few years, Carly has acquired considerable experience during her time spent interning and volunteering for Registered Dietitians at both the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care. In her spare time, Carly is interested in weight lifting and spends many hours experimenting in the kitchen. Carly feels incredibly honored to represent the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health.

Photo: Madeline Holt.

Madeline Holt is a third-year student at Rutgers University with a double major in Dietetics and French. She is currently a student nutritionist for the RU Healthy Dining team, a joint program of Dining Services and the IFNH, where she educates other students about nutrition, writes nutrition newsletters for the dining halls, and conducts nutrition-related research, under the guidance of Dr. Peggy Policastro. Madeline first became interested in the field of nutrition in high school, and has more recently explored that interest through studying abroad in Paris during her sophomore year of college. While abroad, she had the opportunity to shop at local markets daily for seasonal foods and explore food and nutrition through the lens of a different culture. In her free time, Madeline enjoys being a part of the Rutgers Equestrian Team. After graduation, Madeline plans to pursue a Dietetic Internship and a Master of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences to become a Registered Dietitian. This year, Madeline was inducted into Kappa Omicron Nu, the National Honor Society for the Human Sciences, and she was honored with the opportunity to represent the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health (IFNH) as a student ambassador.

Photo: Caitlin Uriarte.

Caitlin Uriarte is a third-year student at Rutgers University. She is in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. She plans to double major in Public Health and Communication. She has dreamt of multiple pursuits for careers like being a Physician Assistant or a Health Educator. She is interested in providing care on an individual health level. She also has a passion for providing assistance to those who are struggling due to the lack of accessibility to resources on public health issues. She hopes to work in the Public Health field after college and make a difference in the communities who need the most help by bringing awareness to topics like mental health, addiction, sexual health and more. She is training to become an Alcohol and other Drug Peer Educator in order to help guide and educate her peers in a positive light. She loves to fulfill the roles of a peer educator, which are being a friend, role model, activist, team member, and educator. Some other things she is involved in are Greek Life, Residence Hall Association, and S.H.A.D.E.S. She hopes to inspire others through her involvement in clubs and achievement in academics. She is very grateful to be given this position as a Student Ambassador at the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health. She looks forward to the growth of new friendships, connections, achievements, and knowledge while being a Student Ambassador. She is looking forward for this experience to enrich her with more skills and knowledge through the works of research.

Photo: Wyatt Walker.

Wyatt Walker is a second-year student majoring in Food Science. At a young age, Wyatt developed a passion for intricacies of fine dining and a love for food itself. Through the years, he refined his techniques with the help of William Wong and the Vocational Technical School of NJ. While in vocational school, Wyatt competed in Skills USA and won third place out of thousands of student competitors. While Wyatt is highly skilled in culinary arts, he has been working for his mother’s tree service company for over 13 years. Some of Wyatt’s hobbies include road cycling, skiing, cooking, and weight lifting. His very active lifestyle has led him to educate his peers on the importance of regulating a diet and eating in moderation, but also including the foods that make you happy. Along with his studies here at Rutgers University, Wyatt was recently inducted into the NSCS honors society. Wyatt is honored to have been chosen to represent the Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health.

Photo: Megan Yuen.

Megan Yuen is a third-year student at Rutgers University majoring in Nutritional Sciences in the Food and Business option and minoring in Environmental and Business Economics. She first became interested in nutrition and business in high school when she worked at a restaurant with a powerful mission statement surrounding clean eating and the use of ethical and sustainable food. Megan is a Student Nutritionist for the Healthy Dining Team where she works with Dr. Peggy Policastro and other Student Nutritionists. Through this role, she strives to educate the college student population on healthy eating through research, newsletters, and other Dining initiatives. Megan also works with the Honors College to provide opportunities for community service, professional development, and personal wellness. She has collaborated with the New Brunswick Community Garden and Colleges Against Cancer to engage students in service learning and to spread awareness of both food insecurity and the American Cancer Society. Lastly, Megan is a Resident Assistant, a peer leader and mentor to 59 Rutgers students. She loves this job because she is able to help her residents navigate college life and encourages them to be engaged with the University at large.

Photo: Man Zhang.

Man Zhang is currently a third-year PhD student in Food Science department. She has an interdisciplinary background in food science and food economics. Her previous research has been published in peer-recognized journals, such as Food Hydrocolloids, China Economic Review, etc. Currently, her research interest lies in the obesity epidemic. She works with Dr. Qingrong Huang to study the influence of nature compounds from citrus peel on human gut microbiota by SHIME (Simulator of Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem). She also researches personal behaviors related to obesity amongst preschool children. She is grateful to be a student ambassador for the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health.

Photo: Sofia Zois.

Sofia Zois is a fifth year student at Rutgers University, pursuing a major in Nutritional Science with a focus in Community Nutrition. Working as a Student Ambassador for the Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health has offered Sofia a plethora of experiences that have assisted her in growing her professionalism and education. Throughout her college career, Sofia has worked under the mentorship of Dr. Peggy Policastro, RD as a Student Nutritionist for the Rutgers Healthy Dining Team, where she discovered her love for nutrition education. Working for the IFNH has been a memorable and rewarding highlight of Sofia's time at Rutgers and she is grateful and humbled to have been a Student Ambassador since the building's grand opening.