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Five Minutes with: Silvia Juarez Viveros

Silvia Juarez Viveros

5 Minutes with:

Silvia Juarez Viveros
Outstanding Scholar and Recipient of the Suzan Jean Lebowitz Research Grant

Silvia Juarez Viveros has been named the Suzan Jean Lebowitz Research Grant scholar for fall, 2012. With a focus on nutrition for healthful living and illness prevention, Silvia is already working toward her Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Food Science in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, having earned her Bachelor's in the nutrition program last December. Silvia graduated Summa Cum Laude and was on the Dean’s List for three consecutive years. The funds granted will provide support to Silvia in her graduate research.

Silvia’s areas of study are diverse, but always focused on health, nutrition, and motivating people to create a better quality of life for themselves and others. Nominating faculty agreed that her enthusiasm, drive and excellent performance as a student made her an ideal candidate for this award. We spent 5 Minutes with Silvia to find out more about her community outreach, studies and future research.

Q: As an undergraduate, you were a breastfeeding educator in the Latino Community through a USDA grant, working with new mothers at Providence Holy Cross Hospital. What was the most profound aspect of this work?

A: I had an incredible time interacting with the new mothers. The most rewarding part of this experience was that I felt I was able to change the lives of these women by encouraging and empowering them with the knowledge I had gained from my lactation and infant nutrition courses. This experience also helped me discover that my calling within the nutrition field is to work with the community, which is something that brings me so much joy. I am really lucky I get to continue doing so. This upcoming semester, I will be teaching nutrition and gardening lessons at two elementary schools to children and parents in Spanish and English. Once I become a Registered Dietitian, I know that I’ll go on to become a Certified Diabetes Educator so that I can continue to serve the Latino community. My plan is to share more of my knowledge by teaching diabetes education classes. So, the most profound aspects of this work were not only educating mothers but also to also that it inspired me to continue my career in the field of community nutrition.

Q: Can you tell us a little about volunteering as a dietary assistant at Northridge Hospital?

A: It’s been a very positive experience. A day of volunteering consists of clerical work, interacting with patients and medical staff, and most important, everyday learning. I have learned how to be more understanding and compassionate with patients, how to relay information about a patient to the medical personnel, and I learned medical jargon that’s made me a more effective communicator, I’ve learned about medically prescribed diets, too. I’m really happy to be part of the Northridge volunteering team because I really enjoy helping others.

Q: What kind of motivation did you get from your professors and instructors, and what was the most helpful to you?

A: I’ve really had the most amazing professors at CSUN! These professors have provided the best motivation by simply believing in me. Knowing I have their unconditional support motivates me even more to do my best because I want to continue making them proud. Aside from expressing their belief in me, they have always offered encouragement. The most helpful advice I received was to become proactive and seek opportunities to enhance and develop my skills. After seeking these opportunities and becoming involved with the community, I’ve learned how to conduct myself in a professional manner, how to lead, network and gained more knowledge in the field of nutrition. Following their advice has been the best decision and learning experience.I’m so happy and grateful for having a great support system that always looks for ways to help and offers the best guidance.

Q: The Suzan Jean Lebowitz Grant will help you pursue your graduate research projects. Can you tell us about what you’re planning to do for your graduate work?

A: Words can’t describe how thankful I am to Marty and Joanie Lebowitz for their generosity and kindness. It’s a huge honor to be the recipient of this research grant because it comes from individuals who also have a passion for improving the lives of others. I’m extremely excited about starting my graduate work because it involves teaching garden and nutrition lessons to parents and children at elementary schools in Van Nuys. Once the parents and children complete the semester-long program, we will be studying whether providing gardening education to parents and children will encourage them to incorporate healthier foods into their diets while also receiving nutrition education. If significant results are found, this program will be implemented in other schools. This would be so great because it would help reduce childhood obesity, which is a rapid epidemic we face in the United States today. I really look forward into putting all my energy and best efforts into each lesson and interaction with the parents. I know this will be essential to making the most positive impact in their lives and helping them lead healthier lifestyles.

Q: In the department, you’re known for your enthusiasm, including your role in organizing the Iron Matador – a culinary competition held in association with the Student Dietetics and Food Science Association. How was this year’s event special to you and what were the most fun and most meaningful aspects to you?

student chefs present dishes to judges at Iron Matador competition as Silvia looks on.

A: This year I was in charge of totaling up the judges scores and most of my friends were competing. So, after each round of cooking, I knew where each team stood but I had to keep it a secret - that was extremely tough! I had a great time watching my friends showcase their creativity and culinary skills. They all did a wonderful job executing multicultural dishes while incorporating three types of secret ingredients – in this case a variety of cheeses such as mozzarella, goat cheese, feta cheese, wasabi cheddar, cheddar, parmesan, and mascarpone. I also had fun watching the facial expressions of the judges and trying to guess how they would score each dish, but I must say that tasting the teams’ tasty creations was far more enjoyable! I know the next competition is a year away but I’m ready for it again!

Q: Similarly, you worked on the FCS Nutrition College Bowl. This has developed into a significant annual event. How many colleges participated this year and can you remember some specific highlights? How does this event enhance the students’ experience?

A: We had a great turn out with eleven colleges participating this year. Of course one of the most proud moments for us was watching as our team lead us to victory. CSUN has won four times now - we are still the college with the most wins. Because of the game-show format, and fast-paced team competition, the Nutrition College Bowl is exciting for the students in the audience as well as the contestants because it provides everyone with an opportunity to test their own nutrition knowledge. The contestants could answer the questions publicly, but the audience had to fight the urge to shout out the answers and hide the excitement we felt when we could recall information knew from our classes. The Nutrition College Bowl creates a healthy competition and everyone seems to have a good time whether or not they win, and that is what this event is all about.

Q: You’re known as a great collaborator. What do you think are the keys to working with a team to bring a project to success?

A: The keys are communication, flexibility, and open-mindedness. Allowing others to voice their ideas, considering multiple ways of completing a task, and considering ideas without judgment creates the most comfortable environment for everyone. That’s when people work the best. I also think people tend to feed off of each other’s energy so bringing positivity and enthusiasm often helps to motivate others to perform at their utmost potential.

This new grant was made possible through a generous endowment established by Marty and Joanie Lebowitz in memory of their daughter, Suzan Jean, who passed away at the age of two. Joanie was a returning student who got here degree from CSUN (then Valley State College) in 1975. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Consumer Sciences (then Home Economics). She told us she created the endowment as a way to contribute to the success of others.

Silvia Juarez Viveros is a member of Kappa Omicron Nu, the National Honors Society for Family and Consumer Sciences and is a student member of the professional organization, the Southern California Institute of Food Technologists. She has also been a member of the Student Dietetic and Food Science Association at CSUN since fall 2009 most recently serving as secretary.

- Jean O'Sullivan