Nutrition Leaders Inspire Challenge

A scholarship match at the Friedman School will expand access and contribute to diversity
Violeta Chacón

Violeta Chacón, Ph.D. candidate at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Violeta Chacón’s journey to the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy fulfills her dream to help Guatemalans enjoy wider access to healthy foods. It also comes with a sense of responsibility to future graduate students.

Her Tufts training has been made possible by generous financial aid. That support encouraged her on the path to a career devoted to tackling the roots of malnutrition in her country, she said.

“Only a very small percentage of people from Guatemala are able to pursue a graduate degree,” said Chacón, a Ph.D. candidate working with the research team led by Professor Christina Economos, the New Balance Chair in Childhood Nutrition. “I plan to use this enormous privilege to build fair and equitable food systems, but I also hope to inspire those who want to follow my example. I found a way, thanks to many generous people. I would like to tell future graduate students that their work matters, so don’t give up!”

Indeed, graduate scholarships have long been a lifeline for aspiring leaders like Chacón. Now a new incentive brings them heightened attention. The Friedman School Scholarship Challenge aims to bolster financial aid resources for doctoral students as well as increase the diversity of the school’s student body, an aim that aligns with the school’s strategic planning goals. The challenge nearly doubles the impact of each gift: Donors contribute 60% of the minimum required to endow a scholarship; Tufts provides the remaining 40%.

“This scholarship match highlights our commitment to two critical student populations: our doctoral students and students from diverse backgrounds related to race, ethnicity, income, or other perspectives,” says Dean Dariush Mozaffarian. “With COVID-19 and recognition of our fractured food system, we are doubling down on our efforts to train Ph.D. students and, in all our programs, a diverse cohort of future leaders to help achieve human and planetary health.”

There is no better testament to that aspiration than students like Chacón, who started her career as a dietitian working with people living with HIV/AIDS and went on to earn a master’s degree at the University of Chile. Her Tufts research focuses on the health of children in two different food systems, in the United States and Guatemala. She studies what motivates Latinx mothers in the United States to make healthy food choices and what shapes the choices of Guatemalan school children. As public schools don’t offer a cafeteria or a meal program, the school children buy snacks and prepared foods at stores or kiosks.

“I had always admired the Friedman School for its rigorous approach to food systems,” she said, “and now I look forward to bringing real change to Guatemala. I can’t say thank you enough to all those who have helped make this extraordinary opportunity possible.”

For more information, contact Cindy Briggs Tobin at or 617.636.0962.