This month’s student in the spotlight is all about Isabella Aristizabal, a DPD student from Nova Southeastern University.  She’s a busy student-athlete who has a heart for educating others about nutrition and performance.  She has a passion for improving people’s quality of life through nutrition. Read on to find out more about Isabella’s journey to becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). 

Q: Tell me about yourself.

A: I am a senior at Nova Southeastern University. I am currently majoring in Human Nutrition and minoring in Marketing. In the future, I would like to open a shop with healthy desserts for those health-minded individuals. After all, baking is a hobby of mine. I am also part of the Track and Field and Cross-Country team at my university. A fun fact about me is that I have lived on three continents. I was born and raised in Colombia, and I then moved to Australia for five years. Lastly, I moved to South Florida to complete high school and have lived here ever since.


Q: Where do you live while you’re attending school?

A: I live in Davie with my parents, meaning I commute to school.


Q: Are you going to be applying for the dietetic internship once you graduate? 

A: Yes. I plan on applying and also getting a master’s degree if possible to further my studies.


Q: What has your time been like balancing being a student-athlete and a nutrition student?

A: It has been challenging but doable. Freshman year was the hardest because I was not used to the course load. Additionally, we traveled a lot during our cross-country season, and I had to make sure to stay on top of my work. However, everyone in athletics is supportive, making sure athletes always meet their GPA requirements.


Q: Do you see yourself being involved with sports once you graduate?

A: Yes, once I finish my studies, I would like to be a sports dietitian for either a professional or college-level team. One of my professors is also the sports dietitian for NSU, and I believe her work plays a crucial role in an athlete’s health and performance. Similarly, I would want to help athletes enhance their performance and educate them on the power of food.


Q: What got you interested in being a sports dietitian?

A: I have played sports since a young age and would like to guide other active individuals regarding their nutrition. I am currently suffering from an injury, and nutrition can play a huge role in recovery and reducing inflammation. Sometimes I hear my teammates saying they do not hydrate enough or eat enough food, and I try to tell them about the importance of water in food for their health and performance.


Q: Do you have any special desserts that you see being offered in your future dessert shop?

A: Yes, my mother makes sugar-free brownies that taste delicious. They mainly consist of bananas and cocoa to give it a chocolate flavor. The best thing about these brownies is that they do not require flour. I hope to sell these brownies and many more desserts that can be healthy.


Q: Why did you choose to learn about nutrition and what attracted you to this profession?

A: My grandma has diabetes. She’s had it since I was five years old. I remember seeing her injecting insulin, so I always thought about how I could help her, and I wished I was old enough and had enough knowledge to teach her. Watching her go through that made me realize that I want to be able to educate people on how to have better lifestyles and to teach them that food has so much power so food can benefit you mentally can benefit you physically it affects your mood so, and people don’t realize that.


Q: Tell me about some of the accomplishments that you have made as a nutrition student.

A: Luckily, I have had the opportunity to do multiple nutrition education sessions. This year, my colleagues and I did an education session for the freshmen students with my classmates. We educated them on basic nutrition principles and easy to prepare in their dorm that are also healthy. Many college students skip breakfast because they do not have time, and if only they knew how important breakfast is. I have also worked with the IDEA program, which stands for Interprofessional Diabetes Education and Awareness. Along with graduate students from different fields, we form a presentation and educate children or adults in the Community.


Q: What challenges or obstacles have you experienced and overcome as a nutrition student?

A: Since nutrition is science-based, I struggled with organic chemistry like many other students at my university have. However, I used to visit the tutoring center which is free to NSU students, and additionally reached out to one of my colleagues that excelled in that class to help me.


Q: What have you enjoyed about the program at your university?

A: All the courses have been excellent. One of my favorite courses has been the directed individual study course. In this course, we had the opportunity to volunteer at different sites, and I had the opportunity to volunteer with Florida Impact. With the organization, I developed education sessions for children through YouTube videos. I also created a themed menu for a school, in which we had to find labor costs, ingredient costs, equipment, etc. Overall, the course and volunteering were a great experience.


Q: Who are some of your current mentors or role models?

A: Nutrition is quite a small program right now, which has made us all extremely close. The faculty members are super friendly, and they support their students. Since my freshman year, Dr. Scripa has been my professor and an essential mentor. She cares about her students and wants everyone to succeed. I had always been interested in nutrition, but I realized this is what I want for a career when I first took her class. When COVID first occurred and the school shut down, Dr. Scripa called each student to check up on them. I was surprised because I had never had any teacher call me to check up on me, but that shows how caring she is.


Q: What do you think are some issues or challenges that students in nutrition experience?

A: This is a tricky question because I feel that most of the students love their nutrition courses. I have struggled with a few courses, but I think that’s just like you would struggle with any course. Also, I think a lot of students struggle financially.


Isabella will make a fantastic dietetic intern and future RDN.  We wish her the best of luck during her internship and as she studies for the RDN exam.   Our Florida community looks forward to enjoying her healthy desserts once she opens her shop!  


By: Larisssa DePasqua , February 2022