Passing of the Torch
The current and former Chairs of the School of Food & Nutritional Sciences share how their own experiences have contributed to the growth and evolution of the program.
Written by: Pat Morden
“I love interacting with students, knowing they will become my future colleagues. It’s very gratifying to know that somehow you had a hand in their growth and career development.”
That’s Dr. Alicia Garcia, who stepped down as the Chair of Food & Nutritional Sciences in July, after 11 years in the demanding role. Dr. Paula Dworatzek, a Brescia graduate, has stepped into the job. Garcia leaves a remarkable legacy. Under her leadership the number of students in Foods & Nutrition grew from 200 to nearly 600, and the number of full-time faculty doubled. The Master’s program, the Diploma in Dietetic Education and Practical Training and a variety of international exchange programs were also introduced under Garcia. She oversaw several successful accreditation processes.
Garcia is also a prolific researcher. Her work focuses on how elderly immigrants adapt to Canada in terms of social functioning, physical activity and eating patterns. She is now on sabbatical leave.
Dr. Paula Dworatzek has experience as a community dietitian, and did a stint as Director of Research Programs at the Canadian Diabetes Association before joining Brescia’s faculty. BOLD had an opportunity to speak to her in late August.
What are your hopes for the future of Foods & Nutrition?
I hope we can continue to produce excellent graduates who are respected in our discipline. We’ve grown very quickly over the past 10 years, so we will continue to work together to ensure that we are offering outstanding courses, and continued experiential learning and leadership opportunities for students. I’m also hoping that we will be able to update our facilities and create a state-of-the-art food lab. Ultimately I’d really like to see our graduate program grow to include a doctoral degree.
I had a high school Home Economics teacher who was very influential. When we started learning about vitamins and minerals and their roles in the body, I was fascinated. I started university in Engineering but knew in my heart that nutrition was the subject that drew my interest.
Tell me about your current research
The balanced school day is a new schedule where students have two longer breaks, each with time to eat, rather than one long break and two short recesses. My premise was that if the food in packed lunches is unhealthy, then eating twice during the school day might not be a good thing. We found that kids on a balanced school schedule had more sugar-sweetened beverages and snacks than kids on the traditional schedule. Going forward, we need to educate parents about preparing healthy packed lunches.
Why were you interested in being Chair?
I love change. I like trying new things and thinking strategically about the future. I tend to get a grasp on situations quickly and see how to improve things. And I wanted to represent the faculty members in nutrition, to ensure that we are working together to serve the growing student body and find new ways of doing things.
What are the strengths of the Foods and Nutrition program?
The faculty and staff. They go above and beyond the call of duty to assist students in realizing their vision to get a degree and pursue work in the field. We have many extracurricular, experiential learning and leadership opportunities for students. Another strength is our growing research productivity, the result of having a graduate program. Lastly, our students and their diversity are a tremendous strength for us.
What do you and your family eat?
Lots of different things — we rarely repeat the same meal over two or three weeks. One of my favourite weeknight dishes is spaghetti al tuno. I use a good quality jar of spaghetti sauce with a can of solid tuna, some capers, peas, and roasted red peppers. It takes 10 minutes to make, and it’s very good.