As the old adage goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Community engagement is often pictured as a single donation or volunteer outreach, but new forms of engagement aim for something more enduring. CSUN student John Poglodzinski, a senior majoring in dietetics, believes that in order for a community to truly change its habits, its members also need the tools to sustain that change.
Poglodzinski was just one of the students presenting their inventive service-learning projects on April 25 at the Annual Research and Service Learning Symposium, hosted by CSUN’s Office of Community Engagement. The symposium, held at CSUN’s Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, showcased 31 student service-learning projects from undergraduate and graduate classes, completed in the 2018-19 academic year. Students conducted research to determine novel solutions for deep-rooted issues faced by the surrounding community. Students presented their work through PowerPoint or Prezi slideshows around the Great Hall.
“What continuously amazes me is the level of student engagement in these projects, and the depth and range of topics the students wrestle with, and the reciprocity of the community partners who continue to do the good work. It’s an honor to be a part of it,” said Jeanine M. Mingé, director of Community Engagement.
“The Office of Community Engagement is here to really foster the drive of students to be engaged students and active leaders in their communities,” she continued. “This kind of work happens all across the university and throughout the surrounding communities, and my office is here to celebrate and support it.”
In his research project, Poglodzinski studied dietary habits of the farming community in Arvin, Calif., and how encouraging well-informed local elementary students to share their knowledge of nutrition with their families and peers can improve the lifestyles of the entire community.
He targeted Arvin, about 15 miles southeast of Bakersfield, due to the community’s high rates of obesity. A survey conducted by Poglodzinski’s team found that more than 40 percent of the community drank at least one soda daily and that most did not walk or exercise much in a day.
However, those habits can be improved quickly, Poglodzinski said.
Through his project, entitled “Peer-to-Peer Nutrition Enrichment,” Poglodzinski and his team reached out to students at Grimmway Academy, a local elementary school with an edible schoolyard garden and a curriculum that integrates concepts related to the garden in its class discussions. With their survey finding that Grimmway students generally knew more about nutrition than some college students, they’d be ideal role models for the rest of the community, Poglodzinski said.
“[The Grimmway students] already have the knowledge. They just needed a way to share it,” he said.
His project provided 110 students in Arvin with public speaking training in order to share their in-depth knowledge, and taught them how to administer a 24-hour dietary recall — a way of assessing one’s diet by asking them to list everything they’ve eaten in the past 24 hours — among their peers and family members. After three days of lessons, Poglodzinski and his team of fellow CSUN students found the students grew more motivated to share their knowledge with others.
At the end of the symposium, 18 judges deliberated to select the most exceptional presentations, to award cash prizes up to $500. Poglodzinski’s project was awarded third place at the undergraduate level.
For the Undergraduate Awards, the winners included:
- First place: “Vanuatu Gardening Project” (Geography) by Chris Gutierrez, Wendy Sotelo, Kainalu Chun, Maico Santos and Ashley Jaron.
- Second place (tied): “Comparison of Immediate Gait and Balance Outcomes” (Kinesiology) by Isabel Lorimer and Danica Marie Tolentino; and “Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Guide” (Art) by Katherine Hawley and Alexandra Menchaca.
- Third place (tied): “Spatial Variability of Soil Moisture Content” (Geography) by Taylor Borsuk; and “Peer-to-Peer Nutrition Enrichment” (Family and Consumer Sciences) by John Poglodzinski.
Tied for the first-place Graduate Student Award were “The Power of Language” (Spanish) by Leticial Quezada, Carol Morejon and Elizabeth Figueroa; and “Small Operations with Large Implications” (Environmental and Occupational Health) by Melanie Zecca.