Graduating senior Liza Lunina awarded Outstanding Senior by the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

Liza Lunina holds a tray of Scrabble tiles spelling Go Rams while making a ram's head hand sign.

Liza Lunina, an outstanding graduate from Colorado State University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, is originally from Ukraine, however, her family moved to the United States when she was very young. She grew up in Hillsboro, Oregon, right outside Portland. Growing up in a Ukrainian household gave Lunina a unique upbringing that has contributed to her achievements today.

Swimming as a way of life

Lunina began swimming at the age of 6 and has swam competitively for over 16 years. She visited CSU on a recruiting trip during her junior year of high school and decided the athletic opportunities, campus, and city of Fort Collins were the right place for her. Lunina was offered a spot on the CSU Swimming and Diving team her freshman year.

Decisions, decisions

Lunina described her first year as a difficult one. “At the time, I was majoring in chemical engineering, adjusting to a completely new place, and my swimming was going pretty poorly. Once the pandemic hit and we were sent home in March, I was convinced my time at CSU was over and I was going to transfer.” After months spent away from Colorado she began to regain her love for swimming and decided to come back to CSU with a fresh start once campus opened up after the pandemic. Lunina found herself switching from chemical engineering to nutrition and finally felt like she had a community at CSU, and she was swimming well again. Lunina stated, “To this day, I would not change anything because I learned a lot about myself in the process.”

Transition to nutrition

Upon returning to CSU after the pandemic, Lunina knew the engineering path was not the right one for her. She began to wonder if being a foodie could translate into a career. The Honors seminar with Dr. Jana Cottrell showed Lunina how food impacts us all in endless ways. She understood majoring in nutrition and food science with a concentration in dietetics would allow her to pair her love for food with a meaningful and fulfilling career. Lunina thoroughly enjoyed working closely with her professors in the Honors Program with one-on-one projects.

“Building relationships with my professors proved to be helpful in my success in the classroom and in finding job opportunities,” Lunina stated. She expressed how fortunate she felt to have completed her Honors thesis with advisers Brittney Sly and Alena Clark – two incredible professors and impactful role models in her life.

“Liza is a hard-working and creative student,” Clark said. “I had the pleasure of working with her on two Honors projects and I look forward to following her bright career.”

Life at CSU

Outside of academics, Lunina’s coaches were valuable to her success at CSU. The coaches stressed how important it was to understand she was a student first, athlete second. Traveling around the country with the swim team was an amazing experience. In her senior year, she was selected as team captain and ended her athletic career in a leadership position.

Lunina also worked in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Program office through CSU Extension and as a Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition Summer Cooking Camp instructor. Getting involved with these opportunities on campus helped Lunina to see how nutrition impacts different communities. Lunina also completed projects for organizations in the community like the Northern Colorado Breastfeeding Coalition and Vindeket Foods.

A student presents her Honors Thesis on a screen in a classroom
Lunina presenting her Honors Thesis

Lunina’s proudest accomplishment at CSU is the completion of her Honors thesis. She applied nutrition knowledge to women’s swimming by developing a cooking class for the CSU Swimming and Diving team. She spent months reading and learning about the diets of female collegiate swimmers in order to develop educational materials and plan a cooking class. “I am proud of completing these last four years as a student-athlete, balancing a rigorous athletic schedule with an equally rigorous course load and extracurricular activities,” Lunina said.

“Throughout the years I have known Liza she has impressed me with her ability to juggle many responsibilities, work hard at everything she does, while always keeping her infectious smile and positive attitude,” said Sly. “Liza is so deserving of this award, and I wish her the best”.

Life after CSU

After graduation, Lunina plans to travel in Europe to experience the different cultures and eat at some of the best restaurants in the world! Upon her return to the States, she will take a gap year to live and work in Fort Collins. Her plans are to apply to a master’s program in the fall and sit for the RD exam following graduate school.

The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.