Nutrition in a Nutshell: Lessons Learned as a Dietetic Intern

by Katelyn Castro

I was one of those few teenagers who knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now, after four years of college and two years of graduate school combined with a dietetic internship, a career as a registered dietitian is not far out of reach. While my passion for nutrition has never dwindled over these last six years, my approach nutrition has changed significantly.

Nutrition tips on the sidebar of Self magazine, an over-simplified nutrition lesson in a health class in middle school, and a quick nutrition lecture from my pediatrician, summed up my understanding of nutrition before entering college. Now­—six years of coursework and 2000+ hours of dietetic rotations later—I not only know the nitty-gritty details of nutrition science, but I also have learned some larger truths about nutrition that are not always talked about.

Beyond what you may read as you thumb through your social media feed, or even what you may learn from an introductory nutrition textbook, here are some of the lessons that I have acquired about nutrition along the way:

1- Nutrition is an evolving science.

First, let’s be clear that nutrition is a science that relies on concepts from biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and epidemiology to study how nutrients impact health and disease outcomes. Understanding how diabetes alters carbohydrate metabolism allows people with diabetes to live without fear of dying from diabetic ketoacidosis or seizures due to unsafe blood glucose levels. Understanding how ulcerative colitis impacts mineral absorption and increases protein losses helps those with the condition manage nutrient deficiencies with adequate nutrition supplementation. These are only a few examples of the many ways our knowledge of nutrition science makes it possible to improve individuals’ health outcomes.

However, the more I learn about nutrition, the more I realize that the research still holds many unanswered questions. For example, previous nutrition guidelines, like when to introduce hypoallergenic food to children, are being disproven and questioned by more recent studies. On the other hand, research on the gut microbiota is just beginning to uncover how one’s diet interacts with their gut microbiota through hormonal and neural signaling. Staying up-to-date on the latest research and analyzing study results with a critical eye has been crucial as new scientific discoveries challenge our understanding of nutrition and physiology.

Who would have thought a career in nutrition would require so much detective work?

 2- Food is medicine, but it can’t cure everything.

The fact that half of the leading causes of death in the U.S. can be influenced by diet and physical activity highlights the importance of nutrition for long-term health. Using medical nutrition therapy for patients with variety of health problems, ranging from cancer and cardiovascular disease to cystic fibrosis and end-stage renal disease, has also allowed me to see nutrition powerfully impact the management and treatment of many health conditions. High cholesterol? Avoid trans fat and limit saturated fat in foods. Type 2 diabetes? Adjust the timing and type of carbohydrates eaten.

While making simple changes to eating habits can improve lab values and overall health, nutrition is often only one component of treatment accompanied by medication, surgery, therapy, sleep, and/or stress management. Interacting with patients of all ages and health problems, and working with health professionals from a range of disciplines has forced me to step out of my nutrition bubble and take a more comprehensive approach to patient care: Improving quality of life and overall health and wellbeing is always going to be more important than striving for a perfect nutrition plan.

3- Nutrition is political and nutrition messages can be misleading.

Back when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics was one of many health organizations sponsored by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, I realized how much influence large food industries have on food advertising, marketing, and lobbying. With known health consequences of drinking too many sugary beverages, the concept of health organizations being sponsored by soda companies was perplexing to me. Learning more about the black box process of developing the government dietary guidelines has also made me more cognizant of government-related conflicts of interest with industries that can color the way nutrition recommendations are presented to the public.

Industry-funded nutrition research raises another issue with nutrition messaging. For example, only recently a study revealed that the sugar industry’s funded research 50 years ago downplayed the risks of sugar, influencing the debate over the relative risks of sugar in the years following. Unfortunately, industry-sponsored nutrition research continues to bias study results, highlighting positive outcomes, leaving out negative ones, or simply using poor study designs.  While sponsorships from big companies can provide a generous source of funding for research, as both a nutrition professional and a consumer, I’ve learned to take a closer look at the motives and potential bias of any industry-funded nutrition information.           

4- Nutrition is not as glamorous as it sounds, but it’s always exciting.

When the media is flooded with nutrition tips for healthy skin, food for a healthy gut, or nutrients to boost mood, the topic of nutrition can seem light and fluffy. With new diets and “superfoods” taking the spotlight in health magazines and websites, it’s easy to think of nutrition as nothing more than a trend.

However, any nutrition student or dietitian will prove you otherwise. In the words of one of my preceptors, “my job [as a dietitian nutritionist] is not as glamorous and sexy as it sounds.” Throughout my dietetic rotations, my conversations with patients and clients have gone into much more depth than just aesthetics and trendy nutrition topics. If I’m working with a patient with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, bowel movements (a.k.a poop) may dominate the conversation. If I’m counseling someone who has been yo-yo dieting, I may be crushing their expectations of fad diets while encouraging more realistic, sustainable healthy goals. If I’m speaking with a group of teenagers with eating disorders, I may not talk about nutrition at all and focus more on challenging unhealthy thoughts and behaviors about food. It is these conversations, discussing what really matters when it comes to food, nutrition, and overall health that make a career in nutrition ever-changing and always exciting.

Katelyn Castro is a second-year student graduating this May from the DI/MS Nutrition program at the Friedman School. She hopes to take advantage of her experiences at Tufts to make positive impact on individuals’ health and wellbeing through community nutrition outreach. You can follow on her journey as she blogs on all things relating to food and nutrition at



Opportunities for Exploring Fall in Boston

by Dani Bradley

New to Boston? Now is the time to get outside before winter arrives (and appears to never leave)!

Fall is the perfect time of year to get outside, it’s not too cold, not too hot, and the air is crisp and refreshing. Not to mention, getting outside is a great way to spend those well-deserved breaks from work or studying.

Here are some ideas for taking advantage of the beautiful weather and foliage in the greater Boston area! (Ordered in increasing distance from Tufts’ Boston campus.)

The Esplanade

The Charles River Esplanade is a public park that runs along the Charles River in downtown Boston. It offers everything from running and biking routes to kayaking and paddle boarding. There is even an outdoor exercise area between the entrances from Mass Ave and Boston University. Check out a map of the park to plan a great running route or just pick a place to have a picnic and view the foliage!


Instagram: dani_bradley

Castle Island

In South Boston, Castle Island is a fantastic area to get outdoors and go for a walk or run. This map indicates the amenities and trails available here. And it’s only about three miles from the Tufts Boston campus!


Emerald Necklace

Boston also offers a series of about seven parks and green spaces, which are called the ‘Emerald Necklace’. Use these maps and see if you can check off all of the amazing parks before winter comes!


Chestnut Hill Reservoir

This reservoir, located near Boston College and accessible from the end of the green line’s B and C branches, offers a fantastic one and a half mile running or walking loop. Get out there early in the morning and you will see tons of local residents and Boston College students enjoying the sunrise behind the iconic Boston skyline!

Instagram: dani_bradley

Instagram: dani_bradley

Brookline Reservoir

The Brookline Reservoir is another great option for a walking or running path. This one-mile loop is a perfect place to visit if you want to get out of the city but don’t have the transportation to get too far. It is under five miles from the Tufts Boston campus and accessible by the green D line! From here you can see the Boston skyline peeking out behind the trees from the far end of this reservoir!

Instagram: dani_bradley

Instagram: dani_bradley

Larz Anderson Park

This next park is quite different from the typical outdoorsy or green parks. While it offers all the greatness a park should (green space, picnic tables, ball parks, and walking paths), this park also houses a car museum on its premises. This park is only open between April and October, so be sure to check it out before it is too late!


Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

The Arboretum, located just past Jamaica Plain, is another amazing green space offered by the city of Boston. It is a ‘living museum’ operated by Harvard University and dedicated to the study of plants. Its many walking, running, and biking paths become even more beautiful during peak foliage season in Boston.


If you are looking to get a little further from the city…

Blue Hills Reservation

Blue Hills Reservation is located in Canton, MA and is only a 20-minute drive from the Tufts Boston campus. It offers beautiful paths for walking, running and hiking, and when you make it to the top you will be rewarded with stunning views of the city. The trails are no more than five miles long and the hiking is only moderately difficult. This is a great option for a weekend outing with friends!


Walden Pond – Concord, MA

Walden Pond is a located a bit further from the city, but it’s well worth the scenic half-hour drive if you can get your hands on a car (keep in mind there is a small parking fee)! Once you arrive you will have access to a walking path around the lake that measures to be a bit less than two miles. This park may be especially enjoyable for all of you literature geeks; you can see Henry David Thoreau’s’ cabin! And don’t worry history nerds, there’s something for you too! After you’ve spent some time at Walden Pond, take the quick five-minute drive to downtown Concord where you can walk Main Street, grab lunch, and view the historic architecture that dates back to the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

Google Maps route from Walden Pond to Concord Center

Google Maps route from Walden Pond to Concord Center

These are only a few ideas for getting outside and staying active during Boston’s peak foliage time. Enjoy!

Dani Bradley is a MPH/FPAN dual degree student. She began at the School of Medicine in January 2016 and is currently in her first semester at the Friedman School. In her free time, she serves as the Volunteer Coordinator for the organization Girls on the Run and loves spending time outside.

Fall Semester at the Friedman Student Council

by Michelle Borges with David Grist

Hello from your Friedman Student Council! Despite our best efforts to communicate through all available channels, we often hear from students that they don’t know what student council does. Naturally, The Sprout seemed like an ideal place to post a summary of our activities so far this year.

The Friedman Student Council has had a busy semester planning events, fundraisers and facilitating communication between students, faculty and alumni. This semester, council is composed of 13 students and led by David Grist and Kristine Caiafa.

A large fraction of council funds support student group-led events each year. This fall, the council allocated nearly $1,800 to support farm tours, skill shares, documentary screenings and other scholarly activities. The council also plans social events that aim to bring greater cohesion to the Friedman community.

Social chairs Ally Gallop and Julia Kelly developed this semester’s eventful social calendar, including a brewery tour, coffee breaks, a karaoke party, a happy hour and more. Ally and Julia are also leading a project to create a cookbook comprised of recipes submitted by Friedman students – think a Friedman-style yearbook.

As the Friedman Alumni Association Representatives, Buki Owoputi, Corey O’Hara and Alex Simas collaborate with the Friedman Alumni Association to coordinate events and help voice student interests. This semester they helped coordinate a career panel for students and the upcoming toast to finals on December 4.

Serving as first-year representatives, Shinjia Shi and Ben Chipkin work on integrating first-year students into the Friedman community. Among the plans they currently have in the works is a bowling outing for first- and second-year students at Flatbread Pizza Company in Davis. They are also coordintating with other first year students to plana student ski trip to take place early in the spring semester.

12291273_10156084793640478_4211824103657531542_oTreasurer Matt Allan tracks student council funds and organizes fundraising events like the Fall Fundraiser currently underway. Perhaps you’ve seen the table in the Jaharis Atrium where Student Council members are selling Friedman aprons, chocolate, coffee, and other sundry equal exchange goods. These make great holiday gifts and the proceeds go directly back into supporting student led initiatives. Since Matt has a graphic design background, he also developed the Friedman t-shirt currently for sale at TeeSpring.

As Curriculum and Development representatives, Katherine Pett and Reem Al Sukait meet with faculty monthly to discuss and represent the student body’s opinion on plans for current and future Friedman curriculum.

The council strives to support student feedback in a variety of ways. This semester Caroline Nathan and Ashish Pokharel hosted “Friedman Feedback,” a focus group-style session that sought feedback on a range of topics. Additionally, the council welcomes any student to attend council meetings, email us at, add our Trunk page to view meeting minutes or submit comments via the online comment box or the physical comment box in the Jaharis café.

That is a quick wrap-up of what the Friedman Student Council has been up to this semester. We look forward to continuing our efforts in the spring!

Michelle Borges is the secretary for the Friedman Student Council.

David Grist is co-chair of the Friedman Student Council.

Visions for a Just and Equitable Nutrition School

by The Friedman Justice League

This is an exciting time in the history of the Friedman School. Dean Mozaffarian has undertaken a school-wide strategic planning process, open to all levels of the school body. Albeit executed under a tight time frame, staff, faculty, and students are being given the unique opportunity to consider in-depth what makes Friedman great and how we can continue to make it even better.

Stirred by our school’s time of reflection and planning, the Friedman Justice League (FJL) has crafted a vision for justice at the Friedman School. As detailed in our mission statement, we are a student organization that seeks to make our community more diverse and inclusive, and to find ways for the Friedman community to better address issues of discrimination and oppression in its teachings, research, and programs. We convened in November to build a shared vision of a nutrition school that embodies these principles.

Discrimination and oppression are at the root of many food system challenges, domestically and globally. The Friedman School must understand these vital issues and provide leadership as they pertain to nutrition and food systems. Methodical action will help Friedman progress as an institution at the cutting edge of research and in the training of future leaders. To this aim, justice, equity, diversity, and cultural appreciation should be central to the school’s strategic planning process. In addition, long-term growth will require personal reflection, open dialogue, sustained action, and inclusive community building. We are pleased to present the results of our conversation and look forward to working together with the entire Friedman community to advance this vision.

Investment in and commitment to justice. Real change requires investment and commitment from all levels of leadership. Progress will rely on transparent and open dialogue that encourages all voices to be heard. Financial investment will also be integral to support these goals, including prioritizing equity and diversity education and training, accessing resources for effective diverse recruitment, and building community partnerships.

Cultural humility and openness. We seek more welcoming social spaces to promote dialogue and community. Recent events at the University of Missouri, Harvard University, Yale University, and others illustrate that racism is still present in higher education. We implore our own institution to take an active role in being anti-racist, starting with the humble acknowledgement that there is still work to be done. To build an open and inclusive environment within the Friedman campus, all students, faculty, and administrators must be trained in cultural competency, cultural humility, and social equity. Proper training will position us as better practitioners and representatives of the field of nutrition in our current and future work.

A diverse student body, faculty, and administration. Our working definition of diversity encompasses race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability, gender, sexual orientation, age, religious beliefs, and country of origin. To continue being a leader in our field, the Friedman School must be representative of the society we are a part of and work within, both domestically and globally. Institutions across the country are making bold promises around diversity and inclusion, serving as appropriate models from which to learn. For example, Brown University made the commitment to double its proportion of underrepresented minority faculty by 2025 through creation of a new postdoctoral fellowship program and a new young scholars program. It is our expectation that the Friedman School will make a similar commitment to the diversification of our student body, faculty, and administration.

Build justice into our curriculum. We see a gap in the course offerings that are centered on social justice frameworks and diverse cultural perspectives. The FJL diversity sub-committee is working with faculty to enhance teachings on justice in the classroom. We applaud those professors who already address these topics in their courses. We also recognize that this is an ongoing process, through which we hope to see more diverse guest lecturers, additional teaching modules to syllabi on key justice topics, and the inclusion of culture and diversity-related examples or readings to coursework. Changes can take many shapes and forms, but may include:

  • More nuanced race and class analyses
  • Emphasis on food justice and environmental justice
  • Stronger focus on human rights at all levels of the food system
  • More coverage of animal rights and cruelty
  • Emphasis on cultural influences of food and nutrition
  • Greater understanding and acknowledgement of structural racism in the U.S. food system

External partnerships that are diverse, inclusive, and community-oriented. As students and future professionals, we seek more exposure to community-based participatory research methods and projects that involve community interaction. Increased local partnerships would allow us to leverage our institutional strength and work with communities our school directly affects, such as Boston’s Chinatown. For example, Jumbo’s Kitchen partners with the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, Inc. to educate students at Josiah Quincy Elementary School about basic cooking, nutrition, and health. We look forward to more opportunities to learn from individuals and communities directly so that we may apply our classroom knowledge.

Additional external partnerships could assist with the recruitment of a more diverse student body, staff, and faculty. For example, establishing formal and informal collaborations with state-based undergraduate institutions and strengthening relationships with colleges and universities serving underrepresented minority groups (e.g., Historically Black Colleges and Universities) would assist with these efforts. Fostering relationships with local graduate schools that have well-established enrichment programs with Boston’s middle and high schools (e.g., Harvard School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion) would also be a worthwhile strategy to include underrepresented students in allied health professions such as those within the nutrition field.

FJL is thrilled that the Friedman School is undertaking a school-wide strategic planning process, and several of our members are currently serving on Investigative Working Groups (IWGs) to support this process. We hope that our working vision for justice at Friedman can supplement the school-wide process that continues to make Friedman great. FJL shares many similar goals with the IWGs, such as building upon our external partnerships, improving work-life balance and diversity, increasing the public impact of research from cell to society, improving the educational experience of students, and ultimately creating a cultural shift and transformational change within the Friedman community. We believe FJL adds value to the conversation by ensuring that a justice framework and issues of diversity and inclusion are considered fully. The Friedman School’s progress and continued public impact on nutrition and food in our increasingly diverse nation and globalized world depends on it.


Sarah Andrus, MS, FPAN 2016

Madeline Bennett, MS, FPAN 2017

Stacy Blondin, PhD, FPAN 2016

Rebecca Boehm, PhD, AFE 2016

Alison Brown, PhD, FPAN 2017

Sarah Chang, MS/MPH, AFE 2016

Rebecca Harnik, MS, AFE 2016

Sam Hoeffler, MS, AFE 2017

Mehreen Ismail, PhD, FPAN

Caitlin Joseph, MS, AFE 2017

Micaela Karlsen, PhD, NEPI 2017

Kathleen Nay, MS/MA, AFE/UEP 2018

Megan Lehnerd, PhD, AFE

Caitlin Matthews, MS/MA, AFE/UEP 2017

Danielle Ngo, MS/MA, AFE/UEP 2017

Nathaniel Rosenblum MS/MALD, AFE 2016

Rebecca Rottapel, MS/MPH, AFE 2016

John VanderHeide, MS/MA, AFE/UEP 2018

The Friedman Justice League encourages this conversation to continue among the broader Friedman community. We are compiling signatures for this vision, which will be used to contribute to the Friedman School’s strategic planning process. Please add your name if you believe this vision adequately reflects your views and would like to share your support, by December 11:

Friedman Students and Third Graders Get Down with Worms and Do Some Garden-Based Learning

by Kathleen Nay

Since 2006, the Friedman School’s Agriculture, Food and Environment students have partnered with the third grade classes at Josiah Quincy Elementary School to explore the benefits of garden-based learning. Dig In! Nutrition Education (DINE) is a curriculum designed to get kids excited about food while simultaneously fulfilling Massachusetts’ school science standards. This fall, both AFE students and the third graders enjoyed learning about the food system and nutrition together.

Lesson 1: All About Plant Parts

Our first lesson started with the basics: learning the different parts of plants and how they function. We sang a song about the six basic plant structures—roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds—and talked about which parts store food, carry water and nutrients, and make sugars. Students identified plant parts that we eat and had a chance to examine a variety of edible plants, including radishes, celery, kale, and grape tomatoes. Finally, we used our different plant parts to build an imaginary plant.

Credit: Kathleen Nay

Credit: Kathleen Nay

Lesson 2: Soil and Decomposition

An important part of gardens is the creatures that live in them. In this lesson, we examined live earthworms. Students learned about how soil is made
from living and nonliving material, how earthworms and decomposers make soil and recycle nutrients, and why healthy soil is important for healthy plants and healthy people. Some students were so fascinated with their worms that they even named them.

Credit: Kathleen Nay

Credit: Kathleen Nay

Lesson 3: The Food Web

In lesson three, we talked about the distinctions between producers, decomposers, and consumers. We identified three kinds of consumers: herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. Students worked in groups to draw some example food webs. We discussed some of the things we ate for breakfast (e.g., waffles, cereal with milk, bacon) and identified how our food interacts as part of the food web. We also thought about what might happen if part of a food web is disrupted, and how that could impact human diets.

Credit: Carolyn Panzarella

Credit: Carolyn Panzarella

Lesson 4: Eating the Rainbow

For the last lesson, students brainstormed fruits and vegetables of all the colors of the rainbow, learned that different colored foods nourish different parts of our bodies, and that we should aim to eat at least 1-2 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. Finally, students participated in a taste test and voted on their favorite samples. Among the contenders for best fruit or vegetable were tomatoes, bean sprouts, cucumbers, oranges, grapes, and mangoes.

Credit: Sam Hoeffler

Credit: Sam Hoeffler

DINE is an exciting way to teach kids about food using each of their senses and offers a chance for Friedman students to get involved in the community. Next semester is shaping up to be just as exciting as the fall was and will include lessons in Quincy Elementary’s rooftop garden. Look for opportunities to get involved with DINE in the spring!

Credit: Kathleen Nay

Credit: Kathleen Nay

To volunteer with DINE or to learn more about the program, contact Carolyn Panzarella ( or Rebecca Harnik (

Kathleen Nay is a first-year AFE/UEP student and is looking forward to volunteering with DINE again next semester.

Gaining a Sense of Home in Chinatown

by Danielle Ngo

A little more than a year ago, I moved to Boston after a lifetime in California. I moved here by myself, without knowing any friends or family or tangential acquaintances to speak of. I’m a dual-degree UEP/AFE student and just completed my first year out of three over in Medford/Somerville. Now in my “first year” at Friedman, I’m feeling déjà vu. “Where are you from?” “How long have you been in Boston?” “Where do you live?” All the answers to these questions deceive my self-imposed, overly-complicated place-based identity.


At CPA’s Block Party, an elder pauses in the middle of a watermelon eating contest to size up his opponents.

After a year at UEP, I spent my summer down the street, interning at the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA). On paper, I interned at CPA to support the Chinatown Community Land Trust (CCLT) as a Tisch Summer and CORE Fellow. I worked on affordable housing issues through historic preservation and tax incentive programs. In hindsight, what I gained most from interning at CPA was the sense of family that I longed for and huge sense of respect towards the Chinatown community. In the process of doing some pretty dry research for the CCLT, I soaked up some oral history of Chinatown through conversations with CPA staff and members.

CPA is a minute (really!) walk from the doors of Jaharis, on the first floor of the Metropolitan Building, sitting atop Parcel C, at the corner of Ash and Nassau. In 1993, the New England Medical Center made an offer to the City of Boston over Parcel C, with the plans of building an eight-story parking garage. In what is noted as an environmental justice and community organizing victory, that plan for Parcel C was cancelled. Instead, the Metropolitan was built and provides 284 units of market-rate and affordable housing, underground parking, and office space for community-based organizations, such as CPA.

CPA, as an organization, started much earlier. In 1977, Suzanne Lee founded CPA while organizing Chinatown parents during the city-wide busing struggle, a time when Boston assigned students to schools outside of their neighborhoods in an attempt to desegregate the public schools. Since then, CPA has organized and accomplished many victories for the Chinatown community across housing, labor, language access, voter turnout, youth engagement, and more.


A mural piece in ACDC’s office depicting some historic organizing struggles.

CPA’s office is bursting with such stories about community history, struggles, and victory, making my internship all the more immersing in Chinatown. Back home, I grew up in the suburbs of San Diego, and I was unfamiliar with the unique characteristics a Chinatown could have. Here, there are family associations run through traditional family clans that double as benevolent associations, community organizations, and landowners. There are many Chinese dialects spoken, primarily Cantonese, Mandarin, and Toisanese. Many of the Chinese elders used to work in Boston’s garment factories and restaurants. Josiah Quincy School offers classes in English and Mandarin for a full immersive bilingual education.

With such a vibrant character, I am glad there are organizations like CPA that provide a space for residents and community members to address their concerns. Chinatown is fairly well connected to transportation, but at the same time, they face environmental justice concerns from the air pollution generated from I-93. With the 2016 presidential election in mind, it’s reassuring to know CPA campaigned for Governor Patrick to sign into law the Chinese and Vietnamese bilingual ballots through Boston home rule petition. Over the summer, CPA’s Worker Center successfully aided 236 home care workers employed by Medical Resources to unionize, the first union in their industry in the nation.

I am trying my best to share these stories and take them for more than referential knowledge. I want to use these stories to contextualize my own experience in Boston, and hopefully help my peers at Friedman do so in their own way. To many people and at many times, I am merely a Friedman student, and yet another temporary visitor feeding upon Boston’s academic capital. However, I am working on consciously and intentionally being a solid community member to Chinatown and other neighborhoods I live in (eat, work, sleep, play). In this past summer alone, I reached the basic level of familiarity to its history, present day, and people, enough to feel a second home in this pocket of Boston.


View from the Metropolitan, onlooking the historic row houses in the foreground, affordable housing complex Tai Tung Village in the middle, and I-90 in the background.

I don’t mean to say that I belong in Chinatown, but I do mean to say that Chinatown reminds me of home, and I want others to feel the same way, in their own way. I want my peers at Friedman to step outside of the so-New England brick walls and eat at a local restaurant. My top favorites are a bánh mì from New Saigon, super cheap ($4.99!) lunch special from Jade Garden, or box of rolled rice noodles from May’s Bakery (once they’re done with construction!). I want my peers at Friedman to know that Chinatown is much more than Tufts’ “Downtown Boston” campus, and that two-thirds of the land is still a vibrant community for grandparents, working adults, and youth (aside: May we please say that our campus is in Chinatown, not Downtown Boston? It’s very squarely in Chinatown). I want my peers at Friedman to feel like Chinatown can be a second home of sorts to them, as well. Whether if you’re coming from similarly far distances like me, plus or minus the rest of Earth’s circumference, I invite you to join me in appreciating Chinatown, its history, its present day, and its people.

Danielle Ngo is a second-year UEP/AFE student from Escondido, CA. In her spare time, she enjoys playing ultimate frisbee and watching endless amounts of YouTube videos.

New weekly meditation group on campus provides chance to enhance mindfulness, lower stress

by Matt Moore

Nutrition and fitness now have company as components of wellness at Friedman. Students and staff have a brand new opportunity to practice meditation and improve their mindfulness skills at weekly sessions facilitated by Kurtis Morrish (FPAN ‘16) and Micaela Karlsen (PhD, NEPI ‘17).

Although the stress of finals may be a distant memory (or looming dread) for some, the life of a Friedman student rarely slows down. Those who would like a break from their busy schedules can meet for meditation and reflection every Wednesday morning at 9:30 am in Sackler 854.

“I see meditation as a tool to get in touch with your true self and to let go of whatever barriers might be in the way of expressing yourself fully in the world. Most of the students at Friedman have long-term goals, missions, or specific paths to follow, so meditation can support a person’s ability to be effective in following their path. Sitting in silence allows you to get a break from your thoughts, which are unhelpful in many situations,” said Karlsen, who has over a decade of experience with meditation.

She and Morrish were inspired to bring meditation to Friedman after meeting at meditation classes taught by Dr. David Arond at the Tufts School of Public Health. While Dr. Arond has since taken a sabbatical, Karlson and Morrish decided to continue meeting and create a new community.

In contrast to the formal classes at the School of Public Health, Morrish explained that the sessions in Sackler would be less of a commitment for interested participants. People can come once a week, once a month, or once a year.

At a typical session, the first 20 minutes are devoted to meditation, which can be loosely guided, more closely directed to develop concentration, completely silent, or done while walking, which is Morrish’s favorite format.

“We really have a perfect little space. People are invited to remove their shoes as a way to help literally ground themselves, but it’s not required. There are no rules: they can sit in a chair, lie down, stand, or sit on the floor. It is primarily a venue for people to get together and enjoy meditation,” he said.

Following the meditation, in the democratic spirit of the group, attendees can choose how to spend their remaining time together. Possibilities include listening to guided meditations and readings for reflection or discussing their meditation that day, what the experience was like, and any challenges they encountered.

Like Karlsen, Morrish believes that participation in mediation can help Friedman students with not only their day-to-day lives but also in preparation for their post-graduate careers. He attributed improved focus, clarity, and mindfulness to practicing meditation over time.

“Meditation develops people’s ability to be more present and better understand who they are, how they interact with one another, and be more mindful. Mindfulness skills can then be applied by any healthcare professional. What you’re doing when you shut your eyes is not just self-serving—it helps the people you are helping,” he said.

Not only could mindfulness help professionals interact with their clients, patients, and colleagues, but recent studies have suggested benefits like pain-relief, improved social skills and cognition in elementary school students, and decreased stress among diabetes and heart disease patients.

Morrish and Karlsen are encouraged by the interest generated at the first two sessions, and they are enthusiastic about the future. They eventually hope to welcome guest speakers, and Dr. Arond has already expressed interest in leading a session.

For those who are curious or might be hesitant about giving meditation a try, Morrish explained that the majority of participants have been beginners and arrive hoping for guidance. “All you need to start meditating is curiosity and an open mind,” he said.

“The practice of meditation, I think, is a response to an impulse to listen to your inner voice. [The sessions are] an opportunity if people feel drawn to it. If anyone knows they want to be part of a meditation group, or if a person keeps remembering the email invitation and wonders about it, feels curious to try it, or feels sorry to have missed it, any of those are good reasons to come at least once and check it out,” added Karlsen.

Karlsen and Morrish were once brand new to meditation themselves. While they met through Dr. Arond’s classes, they have very different backgrounds.

In 2004, Karlsen began a three-year personal growth program at Light on the Hill Retreat Center in Van Etten, New York. The center’s mission is “to provide a place where individuals and groups can find solace from their everyday pursuits and space for reflection,” and Karlsen explained that meditation is a core part of the program.

Since then, she has gone on multiple silent meditation retreats there that have lasted from two to ten days. She is still involved with the retreat center and belongs to a meditation group for graduates of the program. The group meets five times per year, and each member has committed to individual meditation practice between meetings.

Morrish started out by practicing yoga, but he found classes to “not even scratch the surface of the practice’s mental impacts.” He was drawn to meditation as a means of improving and better applying his mindfulness skills.

While working in Zambia in 2013, he tried Brahma Kumaris mediation, a spiritual practice that emphasized reflection on the soul rather than the body. He personally preferred a more secular experience, and while he stopped practicing after returning home to Canada, the desire to meditate remained in the back of his mind. After learning about Dr. Arond’s classes upon arriving at Friedman, Morrish jumped at the chance for more formal experience.

Now, both Karlsen and Morrish hope to share their experience at Friedman. “It’s nice to have a community of fellow meditators. It supports your commitment to yourself. There’s also something better about meditating in a group compared to by yourself—it’s just a different experience,” said Karlsen.

Matt Moore is a first-year AFE student and is still dismayed about the Royal Rumble. Instead of watching the Super Bowl, he is counting down to Spring Training.