Student Affairs Leader Passionate About Supporting Chargers’ Holistic Wellness
Meet Diane Polo ’21 MPH, associate director for health, wellness education, and prevention, who is an animal lover and is excited to be working on her doctoral dissertation.
January 30, 2024
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
The lifeblood of the University of New Haven are the faculty and staff members who dedicate their lives to helping our students reach their goals. Periodically, we’ll introduce you to a member of the staff so you can learn more about them – beyond their day-to-day work.
Renee Chmiel: What is your favorite meal? Diane Polo: Picking a favorite meal is a tough one. I like to try foods from all over, and I also love to try to replicate them at home. One of my favorites is Peruvian food. Many of the dishes are influenced by Chinese and Japanese cuisine, which I also love. I grew up eating Peruvian food, but I still like to go to restaurants and try out their versions of my favorite dishes. Nothing, though, beats a home cooked meal made by my mom.
I recommend that anyone trying Peruvian food for the first time try “Lomo Saltado.” It’s a beef stir fry that may sound simple, but it is packed with flavor. There are also many variations of this with seafood and vegetarian dishes.
RC: If you won the lottery, what is your first purchase? DP: I would buy a place where I could set up an animal sanctuary. Animal rescue is something that has always been important to me. Both of my cats, Willow and Ginger, are rescues, and one of them, I actually caught myself. She was in bad shape when I found her. Animals are very forgiving, and having a place where as many animals as possible have a place to sleep, eat, and be safe would be my dream come true.
RC: Please tell us about the research you’re doing as part of your doctorate. DP: I have officially started the dissertation process, which I am excited and nervous about. We are still fine-tuning my exact questions, but they will be focused on the significance of referral or intervention to mental health services during a post-partum visit. I am also looking to evaluate the effectiveness of current screening practices. The postpartum period can be a very difficult time, and unfortunately, many people delay getting mental health help, if at all. It is essential to talk about how we can best support people through the post-partum period and better recognize when someone is struggling.
RC: What is one thing people are often surprised to learn about you? DP: I really enjoy watching hockey. My husband’s family has been huge New York Rangers fans for years. It's hard not to love watching it when you have a family that is extremely passionate about the sport, not to mention it is really fast-paced and exciting to watch. They have turned me into a true hockey fan. You can even catch me yelling at the TV while watching games! We recently brought our daughter to her first game a few weeks ago, and it was a lot of fun.
RC: What do you like best about the Greater New Haven area? DP: I am from Fairfield County but have spent a decent amount of time in this area. I really like that there is a lot to do and that there is something for everyone. There is a variety of restaurants and, most importantly, the best pizza. There also are many small businesses. One of my favorite places in New Haven is a plant shop called Bark and Vine. It really fueled my love for plants, and I have now become a frequent flyer there.
RC: What do you enjoy the most about your role at the University of New Haven? DP: I genuinely enjoy my job for many reasons. I get to work on projects and initiatives that help support our students’ holistic wellness, which is vital to their success and well-being. I also help students when they may be facing difficult situations, and I think it is important that students know that they have a support system on campus to help them navigate challenging times. I also get to work with the best people! I am thankful for the support of the Dean of Students office and all of the Student Affairs Division. It is much easier to accomplish goals when you are part of a team that supports and shares a similar mission. They really make working together enjoyable.