Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “An army marches on its stomach.” Nina Vizcarrondo, a veteran with a passion for all things food, knows how true this is.
Born in Puerto Rico, Vizcarrondo spent three years in the U.S. Coast Guard, which took her to California, Alaska, and Central and South America. As a food service specialist, she cooked three meals a day for soldiers and officers, often while at sea for months at a time.
“Food is morale,” Vizcarrondo says. “When you’re deployed, food is what keeps a soldier happy.
In 2014, Vizcarrondo traded ship kitchens for classrooms, enrolling in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She graduates today with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food studies.
“I learned how to cook in the military, but I wanted to look at food analytically,” says Vizcarrondo.
In addition to 18-credit semesters, she’s juggled internships, leadership activities, and life as a wife and mom to her three-year-old son. On weekends, Vizcarrondo can be found at a GrowNYC market cooking tasty dishes using fresh produce. She also serves as the president of the NYU Military Alliance, working to create a community for the more than 400 military and veterans on campus.
“When you’re in the military, you build a family. That’s why I’m so passionate about the NYU Military Alliance. We need to centralize our community and show support for each other, because transitioning into civilian life is hard,” she says.
This year, Vizcarrondo spearheaded two major events: the first-ever NYU Military & Veterans Appreciation Week in the fall and the inaugural NYU Military Alliance Veterans Ball last month.
Vizcarrondo also successfully advocated for the creation of “veteran liaisons” – positions through the Student Resource Center that match veterans enrolling at NYU with student-veterans who can connect the newcomers with resources and help them navigate veteran-specific issues.
After graduating, Vizcarrondo hopes to continue her work in food studies and pursue a master’s degree. She can see herself teaching or even starting her own company – she recently completed NYU Tandon’s 10-week Veteran Entrepreneur Training Program.