Magaram Center Nationally Recognized for Efforts to Promote Diversity in Nutrition Careers

Group photo of staff and students involved in CSUN’s Marilyn Magaram Center Pathways to Success program.

Pre-pandemic photo courtesy of Annette Besnilian, executive director of the Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics in the CSUN College of Health and Human Development.

CSUN’s Marilyn Magaram Center Pathways to Success program, which prepares undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented groups for careers in food and nutrition (or as registered dietitians), and lactation education, received top honors in the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) Awards of Excellence program.

Pathways to Success bested institutions across the country by receiving top honors in the Talent + Place category, which recognizes projects that “exemplify how putting the right people in the right environment will benefit the community and economy.”

The Pathways to Success program provides pathways for students to successfully obtain and complete a dietetic internship and become registered dietitian nutritionists serving the community, said Annette Besnilian, executive director of the Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics in the CSUN College of Health and Human Development.

Pathways to Success is a fellowship program providing scholarships, proactive advisement, tutoring support, paid research assistantships, peer and faculty mentoring, and a variety of professional development and training opportunities including comprehensive lactation education training, workshops and hands-on learning experiences.

The Pathways to Success program is a collaborative effort between CSUN’s Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics, CSUN lactation program, the CSUN Didactic Program in Dietetics, Los Angeles Mission College, local high schools and several U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies, including the Northeast Valley Health Corporation’s Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program.

“It is an honor to receive this national recognition from the UEDA,” Besnilian said. “In such a short time we have been able to outreach to more than 4,000 students, provided more than 67 scholarships, conducted more than 50 professional development workshops and presentations, provided at least 20 different research projects opportunities, and graduated approximately 40 undergraduate and graduate fellows. Many of our current fellows are practicing registered dietitians.  I am so proud of our amazing graduates who are successfully serving our diverse community today.

“Jenica Smith, our current project coordinator and I had the great opportunity to present our Pathways program at the annual virtual summit. It was wonderful having our community colleagues and partners with us. Being able to share our program, our impact, our talent, our amazing students’ success, and represent CSUN nationally was an amazing experience.”

UEDA is a nonprofit organization that brings together higher education institutions, private-sector businesses, nonprofits, government organizations and community economic development stakeholders to create local and regional economic opportunity.

“I am thrilled that we have been nationally recognized for our Pathway project,” said Merav Efrat, associate professor of health sciences and the co-principal investigator for the project. “In designing this project, we hoped to increase diversity in the Nutrition field by providing underrepresented students with the tools and support needed to successfully navigate the pathway from high school to becoming registered dietitians serving diverse communities.

“As an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and CSUN’s Human Lactation Academic Lead, I am particularly delighted to have had the opportunity to train the next generation of dietetic professionals to be better prepared to support breastfeeding in the community,” Efrat continued. “The students who go through the Pathway program complete a comprehensive lactation training that consists of a two-course sequence in lactation education, earn the designation of Certificated Lactation Educator and have the opportunity to virtually practice delivering lactation education via telesimulations with live patient actors.”