Vasquez receives President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Community Engagement
Dietetic Director and Assistant Professor in Practice in the Coordinated Programs in Dietetics Liset Vasquez has received the President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Community Engagement. Vasquez has been instrumental in improving nutrition education at UTSA and across the San Antonio community, directly benefiting both community’s quality of life.
"I am honored to receive the President's Distinguished Achievement Award for Community Engagement," says Vasquez. "This award is broadly shared with the Dietetic program faculty, advisory board members, preceptors and the many organizations who have collaborated in achieving our mission of preparing students to positively impact the nutritional status and health of individuals and the community. I am very grateful to be part of a university that values a culture of community involvement and partnership."
Vasquez has both a passion and expertise for working with the community. As a Registered Dietitian (RDN) and Licensed Dietitian (LD) for over 25 years, and a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) for a decade, community engagement is at the core of Vasquez’s professional, volunteer and research activities.
In her role as director of the Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CPD) in the College for Health, Community and Policy (HCaP) at UTSA, Vasquez intertwines community needs with student success by forging partnerships. By creating new partnerships that serve the UTSA and San Antonio community, Vasquez helps students prepare to be successful in nutrition and health careers.
Vasquez’s most notable program partnerships include establishing over 40 educational affiliation agreements with Bexar county and surrounding clinical facilities and community organizations. This has not only increased the number of students who benefit from the CPD but has also provided over 40,000 cumulative practicum hours for students to serve the community.
One example is a partnership Vasquez helped establish with the Christa Santa Rosa Culinary Health Education for Families (CHEF) teaching kitchen. Students who train in this facility are able to earn required practicum hours while advancing their capacity to serve the community by participating in culinary demonstrations and various health fairs.
Within the university, Vasquez has forged partnerships with the Roadrunner Café, Campus Recreation, Campus Garden and the Roadrunner Pantry. These partnerships provide volunteer and experiential learning opportunities for students to earn volunteer hours while directly impacting the nutritional and health needs of UTSA students.
In fact, her partnership with the Roadrunner Pantry to serve a Thanksgiving meal to students in need. This “Friendsgiving” event provided meals to more than 50 students on campus and volunteer experience for 10 dietetic students.
One of Vasquez’s interprofessional partnerships included a military wellness pilot program where dietetic students provided counseling and grocery store tours to UTSA ROTC students. In January of 2019, Vasquez helped secure a $5,000 grant to provide interdisciplinary learning opportunities and training across disciplines for UT Health pharmacy and nursing students.
Vasquez’s partnerships have also provided invaluable training opportunities for UTSA students. Of particular note is her partnership with UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing. Through this ongoing partnership, dietetic graduate students have been able to receive substance abuse disorder and nutrition training. In addition, UTSA dietetic students now have access to UT Health Nursing’s simulation laboratory to train on medical nutrition therapy best practices.
Through UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing, Vasquez has provided nutrition management presentations for caregivers of those with dementia. These presentations impact Vasquez’s ongoing collaborative research to support family caregivers with complex care tasks for their family members with dementia.
“Liset’s passion for her job, which is intrinsically linked to a focus on community engagement, is exemplified by her ‘genuine heart to serve others,’” says Johnelle Sparks, professor in the Department of Demography and HCaP’s associate dean for faculty success and administration. “Further, she offers students opportunities for community engagement through classroom instruction and mentoring; her research is focused on the community engaged aspects of nutrition education; and she has a strong spirit for community volunteerism.”
The President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Community Engagement recognizes tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track faculty who are exemplary in their service and civic scholarship outside of the university, providing leadership and making significant contributions to the public good. This award honors the importance of continuous contributions to the external community that create sustainable connections with the university, elevate the civic mission of the institution, and provide measured impacts on community needs.