Meet Samantha Zajac, the university’s first registered dietitian

On Feb. 22, Samantha Zajac, a Master of Healthcare Administration student, began working as the first registered dietitian for the University of New Haven through the school’s food service, Sodexo. Zajac hopes to redefine nutrition at the university and has enjoyed her position thus far.

As the campus dietitian, Zajac is a resource to students, faculty and staff as her role requires her to provide guidance on nutrition, health and wellness. Students are able to book appointments with her during scheduled office hours through Navigate to talk about general nutrition information, dietary restrictions and accommodations, allergies and other food-related topics.

Zajac graduated from Johnson and Wales University with a B.S. in culinary nutrition clinical dietetics and was a dietetic intern for New Haven until June 2020. She said that her undergraduate degree taught her to not only prepare food but how that food interacts with one’s body regarding nutrition.

Zajac also interned at Auburn University, where she worked in their wellness kitchen for their Division 1 athletes and other students. She said while there she fell in love with working at universities, so she came back to Connecticut and applied to be New Haven’s campus dietitian.

To be a registered dietitian, one must complete a 1,200-hour internship and then pass an exam, which Zajac successfully completed.

Zajac said that she hopes to improve the dining program at the university and raise more awareness about nutrition. She said, “I would like my experience to be benefiting students in a health aspect as well as being able to get the items that they want here on campus.”

“I think there’s a big stigma around nutrition,” said Zajac, “and [an assumption that] you have to eat this certain way all the time, and if I can help break down those barriers and have people understand that nutrition and health is all about what you’re eating as well as what’s satisfying you – and that’s different for everybody.”

Zajac has already provided guidance to students. She incorporated more dietary-restricted food options to My Zone in the Marketplace and is continuing to talk with those students about their needs. On March 25, she tabled in the Marketplace and gave out energy bites with their recipe.

Not only does Zajac provide guidance, but she also works with campus chefs at all Sodexo services and the marketing team to provide and promote new and nutritious food items that students will enjoy.

There are various upcoming programs that Zajac is planning for students to attend, including a partnership with the Sustainability Club for an Earth Day farmer’s market.

“So far, I’m enjoying every minute of it,” Zajac said. “It encompasses a lot of my passions – food and nutrition and being able to work with students in the university atmosphere is great.”

To discuss nutrition, students can book an appointment with Zajac through Navigate on myCharger for Tuesdays and Thursdays. She is also on Instagram, @campusdietitian_sam.