Professors before they were professors: Jamisha Leftwich

Nathan Turoff, Features Editor

Dr. Jamisha Leftwich is a coordinator for the Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP) program at the University of North Florida (UNF). Uniquely enough, Leftwich completed her bachelors, masters, and even her doctorate all at UNF. She has a Doctorate in clinical nutrition, and is a distinguished dietician and instructor specializing in community, maternal, infant, and child health and nutrition. 

Dr. Leftwich has lived in Jacksonville for most of her life. She wanted to be a dietician even before she left high school, so when she graduated, she began looking for colleges that offered degrees in nutrition. Leftwich ended up choosing UNF for a reason many do, that being the small class sizes, as well as it offering her the undergraduate degree she wanted.

“I wanted something closer to home,” as she recalled the proximity being another factor in choosing UNF, as her family lived in Jacksonville.

Jamisha Leftwich posing with food items for a news segment
Leftwich posing with various food items for a news segment, photo courtesy of Jamisha Leftwich

She had a great time as an undergraduate student at UNF. She even became a Resident Assistant (RA) her junior and senior years, and still holds many fond memories of it. She explained how her time as an RA taught her communication, teamwork, and an appreciation of cultures, skills she uses all the time in her position.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in 2011, she then looked toward pursuing  her Master’s degree. UNF offers a master’s program to become a dietician, combined with an internship. She recalls meeting the program director in particular.

“It was the first time I saw a professor who looked like me.” Leftwich stated.

She elaborated on how the majority of Nutrition and Dietetics is “predominantly white”. Leftwich immediately related to the program director because they were able to understand how nutrition can differ between cultures. Just that one meeting sold Leftwich on continuing UNF for her master’s degree.

After getting her masters degree, she realized she enjoyed teaching. Leftwich was then hired by UNF part-time as an adjunct professor in 2013, teaching undergraduate classes while working towards her doctorate.

Speaking of the doctorate, it was brand new to UNF, and according to Leftwich, UNF is one of only two universities in the nation to offer a Doctorate of clinical nutrition, the other being located in New Jersey.

“Of course, I’m going to UNF….again!” Dr. Leftwich joked.

After receiving her doctorate in 2019, she was hired by the university full time as an instructor, working with graduate students in Nutrition & Dietetics.

Leftwich presenting at the Food and Nutrition Symposium, photo courtesy of Jamisha Leftwich
Leftwich presenting at the Food and Nutrition Symposium, photo courtesy of Jamisha Leftwich

Despite graduating relatively recently, a lot has changed from her time as a student, mainly due to COVID-19.

“When I was a student, we didn’t have Zoom!” Leftwich said with a laugh, as the interview was being conducted over Zoom.

 Leftwich at her graduation, receiving her Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition, photo courtesy of Jamisha Leftwich
Leftwich at her graduation, receiving her Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition, photo courtesy of Jamisha Leftwich

Besides Zoom, there’s just a greater variety of digital resources available to students and professors that helps improve accessibility. She believes this helps ensure the student-professor communication, a selling point of UNF, even as they’re working remotely. 

“I think I only took one online class in my entire time as a student” Leftwich remarked, commenting on how many students now have several online classes, especially due to COVID-19.

In hindsight, Leftwich does wish she had done some things differently when she was a student. She explained how she should’ve spent more time expanding UNF’s core student-to-professor bonds.

“I don’t think I ever went to office hours” Leftwich said before explaining that she wishes she had done so, and encourages current and future students to do so as well.

Dr. Leftwich thought UNF was a “really amazing campus” as a student, and she still does think it is as an employee. She really encourages students to explore themselves and the campus around them. 

“Don’t just stick in your bubble, go out and explore. UNF has so much to offer, it’s about looking for it”

Leftwich still finds herself leaving the College of Health and exploring the campus life around her, even as a professional instructor.

She also believes that graduating from UNF is quite an honor in the local community. UNF is well entrenched into Jacksonville culture. She explained how you meet many people as an alumni, and they will always associate UNF with you and vice versa.

“You represent UNF with pride when you go out into the world” she ended.


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