Marilyn Magaram Center

CSUN USDA Pathway Students Continue to Shine and Persevere

March 12, 2020

Eirenel G. Eclevia, MMC Student Leader and Jenica Smith, Project Coordinator 

Graduate and undergraduate fellows in the “Pathways to Success” program attended the 15th annual conference for the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) in Costa Mesa, California on March 5th-7th with Annette Besnilian, Executive Director of the Marilyn Magaram Center (MMC).  Through funding provided by USDA NIFA, our Pathway fellows exceled at this year’s conference as they participated in various workshops and presented their research projects.  Among the students in attendance was Citlalli Garcia-Plascencia, a research assistant for the MMC who conducted research for the “Champions for Change” program (now “CalFresh Healthy Living”).  Garcia presented on the process of gathering qualitative data from focus groups and performing analysis to evaluate participant experience and perceptions of the “Champions for Change” program, in addition to the effectiveness of the intervention. For Karina Fuentes, Aneli Torres, and Kellie Fernandez, it was their first time attending the AAHEE conference and presenting research that highlighted the intervention efforts of the “Let’s Grow Healthy” and “Champions for Change” programs.  

Another exciting highlight from this year’s conference was having one of our Pathways graduates, Guadalupe Alfaro Cabrera, selected as a USDA-Caminos Fellow as a result of her outstanding work. Cabrera submitted her thesis, “Effective Ways to Increase Awareness About The Women, Infant, And Children (WIC) Program on a University Campus,” to the 2020 Caminos Thesis competition in Food and Agricultural Sciences. This competition is open to any Hispanic individual who has completed a thesis on a topic related to the USDA priority areas, including Food Safety, Climate Change, Sustainable Energy, Childhood Obesity, and Global Food Security and Hunger. As a participant in the thesis competition, she was invited to participate in a Career Preparation Institute hosted by AAHHE. Cabrera has worked on this project since she was a dietetic intern at CSUN, and she would like to extend her gratitude to MMC staff, volunteers, and fellow interns who contributed to this research.  

“Pathways to Success” is a professional development program funded by USDA NIFA that helps prepare students for a career as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Undergraduate and graduate Dietetics Fellows benefit from a variety of resources such as research and mentorship opportunities, scholarships, career opportunities and professional development workshops, with topics focusing on resume and personal statement writing, networking, time management, and succeeding in a dietetic internship.  Now in its third year, the program first received funding in 2017.   

We are happy to announce that our “Pathways” program continues to run successfully in the midst of the current pandemic, with professional development workshops being coordinated through an online teleconference application called “Zoom.” Even with the challenges faced, workshops have had high attendance rates and have been well-received by our fellows. One of our biggest obstacles has been coordinating outreach efforts at local high schools and junior colleges, which have also experienced massive infrastructure changes due to the COVID-19 crisis. Creative outreach efforts and opportunities are currently being developed to include social media engagement, video presentations, and live Q&A sessions. As we have learned how to navigate this crisis, it has truly been a team effort in continuing to provide a successful program for our undergraduate and graduate fellows.  

We would like to extend a warm welcome to our new Project Coordinator, Jenica Smith, who oversees the USDA “Pathways to Success” program.  Smith received her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology (Health & Human Performance) and Family and Consumer Sciences (Nutrition & Dietetics) from CSUN, and she is passionate about boosting wellness and preventing disease in individuals and communities, changing people’s relationship with foodmentoring dietetics students, and advocating for food justice.  In addition, she completed her Dietetic Internship at CSUN and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Nutrition & Dietetics, working on her thesis project entitled, Serving the Starving Student: An Investigation Into Food Aid Programs at California State University, Northridge.”  

Pathways to Success
Spring 2020 Workshops

Cohort 1 – Presentation Skills
Cohort 2 – Career Opportunities and Networking
Cohort 3 – Develop Your Professional Persona


Cohort 1 – Succeeding in a Dietetic Internship
Cohort 2 – Resume and Interviewing
Cohort 3 – Review Writing Workshop 

Cohort 1 – Tips on Passing the RD Exam
Cohort 2 - Finances and Time Management
Cohort 3 – Personal Statement 

Cohort 1 – Success Workshop w/ live RDN Panel
Cohort 2 – Writing the Personal Statement (Part 2)
Cohort 3 – The Application

Images taken pre COVID-19