10 Questions With Tanya Falcone, Coordinator, Center of Nutrition Outreach in Nutrition and Dietetics
Tanya Falcone is a Kent State University instructor and coordinator for the Center of Nutrition Outreach in Nutrition and Dietetics. She also works as a clinical dietician at Hattie Larlham Center for Children With Disabilities.
Falcone values the importance of education, and in her past, she has continued to enhance her knowledge through multiple degrees, including dietetics and psychology, as well as a master’s degree in nutrition.
This trilingual professor works to not only help her students on campus and inside the classroom but has also worked to help others in need around the world through missions trips, including to Honduras and Uganda.
Learn more about her background and accomplishments as she answers these 10 questions.
Q. How do you describe your current position?
A. My current position is definitely very varied. I have been given the opportunity to be involved with students through lecturing, but also on the flipside by being more of a counselor. I believe teaching improves counseling and counseling improves teaching.
Q. How long have you worked at Kent State?
A. I started as a graduate assistant in 2007 and then became part time in 2010. Then in 2012, I was hired full time.
Q. What nutritional advice do you have for the Kent State community?
A. Spread your meals out. Make sure you’re constantly satisfied and not starving throughout the day. Eat just about every five hours and try to make half your plate vegetables. That’s a good start, but don’t be afraid to reach out if you need help.
Q. But there's a pandemic! Working and learning remotely ... now what?
A. The impact of the pandemic on our health has been multidimensional. Due to isolation, it can be challenging for people to stay active, which can also impact their food choices. The less active we are, the more we tend to deviate from healthy food habits. Everything is interconnected. This pandemic has altered how we work, go to school, grocery shop, choose our meals, our ability to exercise, our social interactions and so much more. These changes play a toll on our emotional, mental and physical health. It is important to remember that proper nutrition, physical activity and sleep are crucial in attempting to overcome the changes we are currently dealing with. All three of these elements help to improve our immune system and can lower the risk of developing chronic diseases, including COVID-19. The Center of Nutrition Outreach at Kent State offers free nutrition counseling to any student, staff, and faculty member on campus.
Q. How have you adopted the missions and values of Kent State into your own life?
A. Kent State aims to empower and to lead. So, I try to do that with my students. I don’t like to talk “at” them; I try to give them tools to be independent and learn how to prepare for the real world. The whole wellness part of Kent State - not just physical wellness but mental wellness – is crucial, which is why I have both a psych and nutrition background and am now doing clinical mental health. I keep going to school because I feel as if there is always more for me to learn. It’s not just school that teaches you stuff, but every time I do something I feel as if I am missing something or have this lack of understanding. So, I try to live by what the university’s values are.
Q. What’s a fun fact about yourself that others may not know?
A. My first language is French, but I can also speak English and Italian. When I first came to the United States, I had an accent, but then people told me they couldn’t understand me when I spoke. That pushed me to meet with a vocal coach to try and lose some of it. But when I go to Montreal, it begins to come back.
Q. Throughout the course of your academic career, what was one of the most important things that you have gained knowledge about that you would not have known before?
A. The first thing is to not freak out if it takes you a year longer to finish your degree. It’s OK to take an extra year to figure out exactly what you want to do. You are allowed to change your mind as well. I wish someone would have told me that earlier because I spent a lot of time moving toward a degree I didn’t like. I just did it because I didn’t want to switch and disappoint people. You have to find what makes you happy.
The other thing is, if you mess up some courses, it doesn’t mean your life is over. We all live through our own experiences, but that does not define who you’re going to be or how you’re going to be successful. So, two things to take from that: The negative is it can make things a bit more challenging, and the positive is you can always bounce back from it. If you’re motivated, if you turn over a new leaf, you can get to where you want to go. And if you exude that and show that to whomever would be accepting you into their program, then they will give you a chance.
Q. What are you passionate about outside of teaching at Kent State?
A. The volunteering stuff and the research or just the missionary kind of work is something I like to share with people, so others know they could do it, too. It’s essentially like an extracurricular activity. The Honduras trip was hard. There’s no indoor plumbing in a lot of places. You can’t shower and open your mouth accidentally because the water is not drinkable. And when you think about that, you think two things: “Get me indoor plumbing,” but at the same time you have to think, “People live like this. They live in an environment where they can’t just accidentally splash water in their face because it could be potentially dangerous.” When people ask me why I do it, I say sometimes I feel guilty at home just sitting and watching Netflix. I feel like I need to share what I have. I don’t have a lot of money, but I have skills I can share and teach people in order to learn how to be healthier. It’s true, the environments are not always great. But the people are amazing. The people want help. They want to learn. They want to figure out ways to move forward from their environments. It’s not to say that we have more information in the United States than anywhere else. It’s just different. We have different modes of nutrition than elsewhere. Teaching somebody how to do something lets them be independent. You’re acting like a leader when you’re helping someone learn how to do something for them to become a leader.
Q. What are your favorite Kent State traditions?
A. I like the cultural nights because they’re engaging, educational and it brings people together. I like that.
Q. What makes you proud to work at Kent State?
A. I’ve always liked what Kent State stood for. Coming from a very liberal country, I like how liberal Kent State is. I like equality and people’s rights and people being able to feel comfortable in who they are. That is something I love – you can be you and not be ashamed of it.