Natalie Jimenez (class of 2022) first got interested in nutrition when she was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2014.
“My condition was taking a serious toll on my mental health,” she recalls. “I started changing my dietary habits, exercising every day, and attending therapy, all of which helped my mental and overall health tremendously. It was then that I knew I wanted to study health.”
Jimenez earned an associate’s degree in Kinesiology and Nutrition and Dietetics before she transferred to the University of Arizona Online to pursue her B.S. in Nutritional Sciences with a focus on Dietetics. A native of San Jose, CA, she felt an online program would allow her to have the college experience she wanted.
“I wanted to choose a school that wasn’t in my hometown, and I wasn’t feeling the other colleges in my state,” she explains. “Arizona Online offered an affordable price and good resources. It also gave me the flexibility to work throughout my time at the U of A. I’ve worked as an office assistant at an agency where we specialize in serving mentally disabled and challenged individuals, and I’ve been helping out an old friend at his small business pizza restaurant.”
Jimenez is a first-generation college student and the second in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree – her sister graduated this past June. The Fall 2022 CALES Outstanding Senior has excelled in her coursework and has used her experience to help her fellow students by preceptoring several classes and by serving as a peer mentor with the MentorCats program.
Katelyn Barker, an assistant professor of practice in the School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness, describes Jimenez as going above and beyond for her fellow students. “Natalie was a preceptor for Medical Nutrition Therapy I during her senior year,” she says. “She took on an additional project to create a comprehensive list of medical terminology and abbreviations for the course to improve the experience for future students.”
Service to others has been an ongoing theme in Jimenez’s life, both at UArizona and in her local community. She has received an AmeriCorps Segal Education Award for completing 450 hours of volunteer service with that agency in August; she served as a Mental Health Ambassador with an adolescent mental health nonprofit called My Good Brain; and she is currently a hospice volunteer with Kaiser and Kindred at Home, which provides direct care to hospice patients as well as resources to families who’ve lost loved ones. She’s also an active volunteer at several of her local food banks.
After graduation, Jimenez plans to focus on mental health nutrition as a dietetic intern at the California Department of State Hospitals of Atascadero, CA, before sitting for the credentialing exam to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN).
“My plans after becoming credentialed are to work somewhere in the clinical or community setting of dietetics in my hometown,” she says. “I would later hope to achieve my Master's in Herbal Medicine, or maybe even become an N.D. (Naturopathic Doctor). I haven’t decided yet, but there’s still time.”