My CAHNR Experience: Lydia McGrath, Growing by Stepping into the Unknown

From speaking up in class, to working in an active research lab, Lydia McGrath sought out opportunities to push herself to new heights

Headshot of smiling female student

Lydia McGrath, CAHNR College Ambassador (Christie Wang/UConn Photo)

Lydia McGrath ’22 is a majoring in nutritional sciences with minors in food science and psychological sciences. She is part of the CAHNR Ambassadors program, a group of highly engaged students who promote and serve the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). Students in the program receive hands-on leadership experience through recruitment and other activities, like sharing their CAHNR Experience.

When I first came to UConn as an out-of-state student, I was hesitant to put myself out there. I came here for the Department of Nutritional Sciences’ strong Didactic Program in Dietetics, which I knew would prepare me for my long-term goal of becoming a registered dietitian. As an introverted person, I found it easier to invest all my focus in my studies.

However, I was determined to take advantage of all that UConn has to offer. Gradually, I began to welcome new experiences, take on new roles, and actively immerse myself in this community. From speaking up more in class, to working in customer service jobs, to holding various student organization executive board positions, I sought out a variety of opportunities to push myself to new heights.

Female student in laboratory
Lydia McGrath working in the Fernandez Lab (Contributed Photo)

I can confidently say that my time at CAHNR has allowed me to expand my horizons and step into the unknown. I have had the chance to gain real-world experience in my particular area of interest – clinical nutrition – through an internship with a CAHNR alum, I have helped my peers through my job in the nutrition office at Student Health and Wellness, and I am involved in undergraduate research in the lab of professor of nutritional sciences, Maria Luz Fernandez. It wasn’t always easy or comfortable, but thanks to these experiences, I developed leadership and communication skills, a network of relationships in a close-knit community, confidence, and resilience that I know will help me thrive after graduation.

Choosing to embrace the uncertainty rather than cling to what felt safe was the best decision I could have made at that time. Stepping out of my comfort zone allowed me to progress academically, professionally, and personally. This would not have been possible without the extraordinary opportunities provided to me as a UConn student. With hundreds of student organizations, a strong undergraduate research program, and countless opportunities for volunteering, leadership, and employment, this University offers incredible resources that promote personal development. What’s more, through the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, I have received further support and guidance, which has made all the difference in my experience. Being a member of CAHNR has enabled me to find a sense of belonging in a close-knit community, for which I am deeply grateful.

While I may still find great comfort in routine, my experience at CAHNR has shown me that choosing the more comfortable route has the potential to hinder personal growth. From conducting research to participating in hands-on learning and internships, I have discovered the tremendous value that lies in taking risks, stepping out of your comfort zone, and expanding your horizons.

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