Before college, Jeanine Toussaint knew she wanted to study nutrition. What she didn’t realize was that every opportunity at NYU would lead her closer to becoming the change-maker she dreamed of being.
“When I chose to enter this field, I knew I would be an advocate,” says Jeanine. She is majoring in Nutrition and Food Studies with a concentration in nutrition and dietetics at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. But on top of that, she’s on a mission to spread awareness about the field’s importance.
Food for Life
Jeanine first became interested in nutrition in high school during the COVID-19 pandemic. She saw children experiencing food insecurity due to school closures as well as rampant misinformation online about quick and effective ways to get healthy. At Steinhardt she built a foundation through courses like Community Nutrition, taught by Professor Angela Trude. The course included interactive projects like living on a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program budget for a week, volunteering at a food bank, and writing policy proposals. Jeanine remarks, “I never thought I could have the power to create laws centered around nutrition.”
After graduating, Jeanine plans to become a registered dietitian. She’d like to help, for example, patients who have cancer, eating disorders, or are recovering from a stroke. “It’s important for dietitians to be part of patient care,” Jeanine explains. “Doctors and nurses only take a couple classes on the topic, so their knowledge is general.” Her larger goal is to serve on the board of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics or Diversify Dietetics. She says, “I want to advocate for people who look like me and for the profession itself.”
Building Confidence with NYU
Jeanine is quick to credit support she received from the Higher Education Opportunity Program at NYU, which recruited her and provided a generous scholarship. “I didn’t think I could get into NYU or afford it,” she admits. And when she arrived, she struggled with impostor syndrome. “Everyone here is doing amazing things,” she explains. “I fell into a cycle of doing too much to compensate.”
Now in her junior year, Jeanine has learned to manage her time, prioritize balance, and be intentional about her commitments. The increase in confidence means her leadership can shine, especially in NYU’s Academic Achievement Program, which supports undergraduates of color. Jeanine serves as a mentor, guiding incoming nutrition students of color, and a rap session chair, hosting conversations about hot topics. In addition, she has made connections through the Black Student Union, Club E.A.T., and Womxn of Excellence, Strength, and Tenacity. “My NYU communities make me feel like I belong here,” she says.
And, once you’re at NYU: “Join Club E.A.T., and clubs in general,” she advises. “You’ll meet people who want to go into different specializations within nutrition, and you can build your network and discover where you fit.”