Originally published in illume magazine
If there’s one thing Dr. Serah Theuri is passionate about, it’s nutrition as a means of improving health. The assistant professor of Food and Nutrition is concerned with not only USI students becoming top-notch nutritionists, but she’s also determined to improve the community’s health through the educational work she and her students do at USI-Gleenwood Community Health Clinic. However, there’s more to this mother of two than what’s on her plate at USI; she loves to travel, sew and more, as well. Although she feels like nutritionists “swim against the current” due to our culture’s food politics and environmental eating influences, she wouldn’t want any other career.
You taught women nutrition in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for three years. What did you learn from that experience that you’ve incorporated into your teaching at USI?
Shortly after I started teaching at Zayed University in the UAE, I realized that the students had a very different reason for seeking a college degree. Those students came from wealthy families, and a college degree for the majority of them was more a status symbol than a means to improve their lives in the future. Maintaining the motivation to learn was a challenge, but I learned that when I set high expectations for learning and required high quality-work, the students rose to the occasion. I incorporate the same high expectations in my teaching at USI, and although I have a reputation for being a tough instructor, in the end, students appreciate what I require of them.
The approach to health care in the United States focuses on responding to diseases rather than prevention. What three nutritional decisions can individuals make to improve their health and prevent diseases?
What is food politics and how does it impact our health and wellness?
It’s the food industry’s force behind aggressive marketing, lobbying and legislation that influences food choices. The food industry capitalizes on factors such as taste, cost, convenience, consumer ignorance and consumer confusion to advertise and market food and beverage. The combined efforts to offer convenience, larger portions for less money and adding nutrients in otherwise unhealthy foods that taste good, do contribute to popularity of unhealthy foods that affect consumer health.
In your professional opinion, what one book should everyone read, and why?
The Blue Zone Solutions: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People by Dan Buettner. This book is more than a nutrition prescription. It discusses how one can transform health using smart eating and lifestyle habits gleaned from new research on diets, eating habits and lifestyle practices of the world’s longest-lived and healthiest people.
What student/faculty interactive moment stands out the most in your years of teaching?
Two kinds of interactive moments stand out the most. First, during class, when a difficult concept becomes clear to the student and I see the “got it” expression. The other moment relates to when a class is not going so well and I have to adjust my methods to make learning take place.
How would you like students to remember you?
As a positive role model.
Photo Credit: USI Photography and Multimedia
Dr. Serah Theuri