Illustration by Shenuka Corea
Eighteen months ago, the Salad Bar, now a popular stand in the East Dining Hall, did not exist. Similarly, the Grab & Go stations are a relatively recent addition to the food options available at NYU Abu Dhabi.
Maddy Lerti, the Campus Dietitian, was the person behind many of these changes and a pioneer of their implementation. In December 2017, she left her job at NYU Abu Dhabi.
As the first dietitian NYUAD has ever employed, Lerti’s role was manifold; she divided her working days between the Health and Wellness Center and the Fitness and Wellness Center, depending on the needs of the two departments. As a clinical dietitian she had one-on-one sessions with students addressing their a specific issues and group sessions with students and faculty about dietary tips and healthy eating habits.
Though the changes she introduced were gradual, their overall effect can hardly go unnoticed. She worked in collaboration with ADNH Compass to make dining hall food healthier and developed subtle strategies to encourage a healthy diet, such as positioning food in the convenience store in such a way that favors healthy snacks.
The search for a replacement was, therefore, expected to be somewhat challenging as the new recruit would have to be able to fulfill all these roles. The recruitment process started in December 2017, with 150 candidates applying for the position. Currently the process is midway through, with ten video interviews underway. Following these interviews, a panel consisting of students, staff and faculty will hold interviews for the eight final candidates, after which the administration will select the new recruit.
The job, however, will not be exactly the same as it was prior to this transition. Retrospective conversations were held with Lerti and the role was amended after hearing her feedback. She reported that while a few students required her help clinical services, which was her focus as the campus dietitian, the overall nutrition on campus still required attention. After discussions about the future strategy and vision of NYUAD, the focus of the new dietitian will be shifted to overall wellness and healthy eating. The new role, to be filled as soon as possible, is titled Nutrition and Wellness Specialist and is an expansion of the previous Campus Dietitian position.
However, the hard licensing necessary for a clinical practitioner takes around six months to receive, which is problematic considering the immediate need for a nutrition specialist on campus. Marko Mladenovic, the Director of Fitness and Wellness, encouraged the student body to remember that despite the ongoing search for a new nutritionist, there are alternative ways to meet students’ needs in the interim; otherwise external services can be
“If students want to benefit themselves — to learn faster, to be smarter, to progress faster — I think they should utilize the services on campus, not just in nutrition but also in fitness. This campus is very well resourced. When it comes to pretty much anything, students can reach out and get a solution,” Mladenovic advised.
Furthermore, educational sessions about developing healthy eating habits remain available and there are video tutorials posted by Tina Wadhwa, Associate Director of Health Promotion & Sexual Misconduct Support, on ways to prepare a quick and healthy breakfast.
“I know that students are bombarded with information on all sides, but if you are not well and healthy, how are you going to study? The priority should be students taking care of themselves. This is why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Mladenovic added.
During this interim period before the new nutritionist is hired, the Fitness Center encourages students to reach out to the coaches and instructors who have a strong background in nutrition and could provide general advice related to eating habits and wellbeing. Meanwhile, ADNH is working to provide descriptions on what goes into the food served in the dining hall and increase the variety of food served in the healthy corner.
Shalini Corea is News Deputy. Email her at [email protected]