The Curricula, Research and Technology: Capacity Building for Graduate Nutrition and Dietetics in Puerto Rico project will contribute to sustainable capacity building at UPR-RP for a new graduate program, establishing the Nutrition Intervention Laboratory for creative research, the Nutrition Technology Laboratory for instructional diversity, and using innovative, dual-purpose initiatives:

  • Faculty travel awards as incentives for graduate course creation.
  • Humanitarian aid project and student mentoring research scholarships to foster collaboration and integration of nutritional sciences into existing Natural Sciences departments to stimulate critical thinking.
  • Community practicum experiences in service to the underserved Hispanic population.

This project has two overarching goals:

Goal 1 – Enhance the quality and diversity of undergraduate and graduate Hispanic student academic preparation leading to careers as dietitians, nutrition specialists, or nutrition scientists.
Goal 2 – Contribute to sustainable capacity building at UPR-RP through renovated facilities and collaborative efforts.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hispanic-Serving Institution Education Grant, Award No. 2017-38422-27112. $250,000; August 1, 2017- July 31, 2021.

Project Director (PD): Michelle Schelske Santos, PhD
Co-PD: Nancy Correa Matos, PhD, RDN, LND

This longitudinal observational study aims to describe the changes that occur among first year university students during their first two years of study. The transition to the university life may bring challenges and difficulties that can alter health behaviors such as dietary intake, physical activity, patterns of sleep, alcohol consumption among others. A convenience sample of students enrolled for their first year of study was recruited between 2015 and 2017. Anthropometric measures, dietary intake, health behaviors and biochemical data were collected at baseline, end of the first year, beginning of the second year and end of the second year of study. Findings will facilitate a description of the health profile of students admitted to the university and the changes in health behaviors that may occur during the transition to the university. A description of the profile may indicate the need for health promotion and prevention interventions as well as health services that must be offered to university students.

Researchers: Elsa Pinto, Brenda Toro, Annabel Cruz, and Lizette Vicéns

ABSTRACT: Over 65% of adult Puerto Ricans suffer from overweight or obesity. Diet quality and nutrition-related factors play an important role in weight management, and prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. The University of Puerto, Río Piedras, Didactic Program in Dietetics (UPR-DPD) is uniquely positioned as the primary educator of more than 95% of practicing Nutritionist-Dietitians on the island. The Commission on Dietetic Registration ruled to change the entry-level education minimum requirement for dietitian registration to a graduate degree, effective January 1, 2024. This Nutri-Vías: Pathways for Diversified Learning in Nutrition and Dietetics Planning Grant will Facilitate Interaction with other Academic Institutions to establish a Curriculum and Supervised Practice Committee and Educational Consortium at the Master’s degree level in the discipline of N-Human Nutrition. Planning for innovative and collaborative educational experiences (Nutri-Banco, open-source bank of nutrition case studies; Nutri-Módulos, distance education modules; Nutri-Práctica, supervised practice and research rotations in PR, US, and DR) will occur for diverse areas. This cost-effective and timely approach will facilitate curricular expansion of dietetics to the graduate level, incorporating supervised practice, and is essential for equipping highly-qualified nutrition professionals for the workforce. The potential impact is great for this to serve as an educational model for other institutions to follow, and to improve nutrition interventions for Hispanics.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Higher Education Challenge Planning Grant, Award No. 2017-70003-26415. $30,000; May 15, 2017- May 14, 2020.

Project Director (PD): Michelle Schelske Santos, PhD
Co-PD: Lizette Vicéns Meliá, EdD, RDN, LND

Please see the following article in Scientia featuring the Nutri-Vías project: