Research in a Developing Country

Cierra Rustad ’20

“Central has given me opportunities to stand out…not to mention a great education, priceless study abroad experiences and professional connections.”

– Cierra Rustad ’20  

Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona
Major: Biology
Minor: Spanish
Campus Organizations: Women’s Soccer and Student Senate
Off-campus Activities: Patient Care Technician, Pella Regional Health Center
Scholarships: Cornerstone Scholarship, Central Fund Scholarship, Ver Steeg Scholarship
Career Goal: Pediatrician or family practitioner

“Of all the colleges I visited, Central felt most like home,” Cierra Rustad ’20 says. “I was looking for a college that had a stellar pre-med program that would give me the best chance to get into medical school. I wanted a competitive women’s soccer program, a friendly environment and a place that would give me endless opportunities that would benefit my future self. Central met all those expectations. The beautiful campus and lifelong friendships were a bonus!”

“The best thing about Central is the people,” Rustad continues. “I have already made so many lifelong relationships with peers, teammates and even faculty members. These amazing people in my life have made my college experience unforgettable.”

Her favorite professor, unsurprisingly, is her co-researcher Sara Shuger Fox, assistant professor of exercise science. “She cares about me, both as a student and as a person, and offers lots of academic and research opportunities,” Rustad says. “She goes the extra step to ensure that her students are getting the best education they can. I am inspired by her dedication and drive to make us all better students and people.”

Together, Rustad and Shuger Fox spent five summer weeks in Costa Rica researching pediatric type 2 diabetes. “I learned that too much sugar and other foods can lead to increased risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes in young children,” Rustad says. She discovered that many factors—culture, socioeconomic status, nutritional knowledge, geographic location and environment also affect diet, which in turn affects healthy development.

Rustad enjoyed getting to interact with children and parents in Costa Rica.

“I also learned that collecting data for a research study in a foreign country can be extremely difficult due to cultural differences, geographic location, environmental conditions and differing health care systems,” she says.

Rustad credits Lecturer of Exercise Science Katelin Valster with helping her land a job at Pella Regional Health Center. “I now am certified as a nursing assistant, and have a great job working at the hospital as a patient care technician, gaining clinical experience!” she says.

Rustad plans to go to medical school.

“Central is a good financial investment for me because it has given me opportunities to stand out as a graduate school applicant—not to mention a great education, priceless study abroad experiences and professional connections,” she says.


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