Our Story/Natsumi Soto-Roman

Nutritional Sciences major Natsumi Soto-Roman believes the science of nourishment is applicable to everyday life, and to everyone, everywhere.

“The focus on nutrition today is bigger than it has ever been, and that’s great because it should be,” she said. “Nutrition is a huge part of everyone's health and I hope to help people realize this and help them better their lives through nutrition.”

The rising senior is taking a bite out of the field through her summer internship at Friends Services for the Aging, where she has the opportunity to manage the residents’ diets, as well as get to know each one on a personal level.

More than 4,500 Penn State students are enrolled in the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) studying a wide-array of fields, each committed to the concept of improving the quality of life for others. Soto-Roman, who found a home in the Department of Nutritional Sciences (NUTR), is one of those HHD students, and this is her story.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Soto-Roman has been residing in State College, Pennsylvania, for about 13 years. With plans to graduate in May 2016, Soto-Roman is double majoring in Nutritional Sciences, with the dietetics option, and Spanish.

This summer, Soto-Roman is interning at Chandler Hall Health Services in Newtown, Pennsylvania. Her internship began June 1 and lasts until July 24.

Chandler Hall, run through Friends Services for the Aging, is a non-profit long-term care facility that offers a wide spectrum of services to meet the changing needs of aging individuals, their families, friends and caregivers.

“Friends Services for the Aging has many member organizations that participate and host interns,” Soto-Roman said. “They have a system that has all levels of care, including independent living, personal care, assisted living, skilled nursing and hospice, as well as daycare and pre-kindergarten, and during the summer, a camp for kids.”

Soto-Roman’s Nutritional Sciences major requires 300 hours of field experience work for a class, NUTR 495, to graduate.

“To apply to the FSA internship, you have to get academic credit for the experience,” she said. “So my adviser sent all the students information about it, and very last minute I ended up applying and eventually got a spot at Chandler Hall.”

At Chandler Hall, Soto-Roman serves as the culinary services and nutrition intern.

“Two days out of the week I shadow and help the registered dietitian,” she said. “I also assist the certified dietary manager, so that is kind of clinical work. I help them with the dietary aspect of the residents’ chart, looking at diet textures, food intake, and also look at the level of dementia, labs, medications and how they all interact together and how much nutritional risk that places a resident in.”

She said the best part about the internship is getting to know the residents on a personal level.

“They all have lived such full lives and it’s so amazing sitting down with them and hearing about their experiences and the things they’ve done,” Soto-Roman said. “You really have to care to go into this field … the residents here are not patients, they are people and this is their home and as such, should be treated with as much respect and dignity as possible. I am so happy that I decided to intern in long term care and that I am able to experience all of this.”

Soto-Roman’s preceptor for the internship is the culinary director, Matthew Schwartz. She helps him with a hydration station project, to put fruit-infused water stations all over the campus for residents and also provide nutrition information about fruits and herbs.

Additionally, Soto-Roman has also been helping out with the daycare and summer camp, in which she has hosted two nutritional sessions for campers ages 6 through 12.

“I’ve gotten a lot of leadership experience, and firsthand look at how all the directors and managers work together and how each department runs here at the facility,” Soto-Roman said.

The internship has given her a lot of real-world experience; prior to it, all of her nutrition experience came from classroom work, she said.

“I only had practical food service experience,” she said. “So now I am actually seeing a registered dietician assess a resident and also see how a foodservice operation fully works from top to bottom.”

Soto-Roman said the internship has inspired her to envision a career in long-term care.

“My point of view on my major hasn’t changed,” she said. "I really enjoy my major, I love nutrition, and I couldn’t be happier with the path that I have taken. Hopefully I will also get to work in a geographical area where my bilingual skills will be useful. I like State College but I am excited to move forward.”

After graduation, Soto-Roman hope to enters a dietetic internship to help her gain some more experience.

“I have a lot to learn so I hope to be able to do a little of everything until I find an area I am truly passionate about,” she said.

In addition to NUTR, there are a variety of areas for students to study within HHD through the Departments of Biobehavioral Health, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Health Policy and Administration, Human Development and Family Studies, Kinesiology, Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, and the School of Hospitality Management.