A Liberal Arts education: How has it prepared me for dietetics?

The past couple weeks have been quite busy for me: helping to plan a reception for my job in the President’s Office; writing a 22 page literature review for my capstone course (in 2 weeks!); the usual busy schedule of dance, Bible studies, and other organizations; oh, and breathing! (That is very important!) With everything going on (especially the literature review) I found it a miracle that I was able to concentrate long enough to pursue some graduate and shadowing opportunities for my professions of dietetics independent study course. Piece by piece, though, I was able to make a lot of progress the past couple of weeks in taking the next (and really the first) steps in pursuing dietetics.

For the past month (in January) I began my course in professions of dietetics with my advisor, Dr. Blythe. Although during the past 3 years of my undergraduate study I have known (or at least had the idea) that I want to become a registered dietitian, I have done very little to really make this dream come true. My Nana and Papa (my two biggest supporters and encouragers when it comes to school) have advised me to pursue dietetics at schools other than Berea College. Even though Berea does not have a dietetics program and against the advice of my grandparents, I still decided to complete my studies at Berea in order to receive a degree in Child and Family Studies, with a concentration in Nutrition and Food Studies.

I knew it would be difficult to separate myself from friends and other commitments I have at Berea; however, this was not my main reason for staying. I stayed at Berea because of the excellent (and extremely challenging) education I was receiving. I had the opportunity at Berea to receive an almost free education (work-based college with free tuition!) from professors that, for lack of a better way to put it, really know their stuff!! Many of my most challenging courses (e.g. anatomy and physiology, nutrition and food studies courses, significant issues in health, capstones) have been those that I flourished the most in and was really engaged in. As well, those courses that have had little to do with my major but instead have fed my interests (e.g. yoga certification independent study, tai chi, mind-body studies, coral reef study in Utila, Honduras, internship at a Pregnancy Help Center) have shaped me into the person I am now. I have developed a love for all kinds of movement practices, many of which I never knew existed before my experiences at Berea. I have had opportunities of a lifetime (seeing nurse sharks and turtles in the Caribbean!!!) that I can  only relive in memory. Had I transferred to another college to pursue only a degree in dietetics, I feared that I would miss out on a liberal arts education that allowed me to really develop as a person and as a scholar.

But then my senior year of college began to quickly approach and I had to make a decision: did I want to pursue dietetics as a profession or did I want to go in a different direction (public health, food science, education??). With this question in mind, and my heart still set on dietetics, I began my independent study with Dr. Blythe. And then it began! My journey to dietetics really started and we opened a door that will not be easily shut. The first month we spent time one-on-one to discuss my goals for this course, the pace of my studies, and to find avenues for shadow work. Dr. Blythe has been able to share a great perspective on the field and to share her knowledge in many areas, including agriculture, food studies, home economics/family and consumer sciences, and of course dietetics. As a Registered Dietitian herself, she has experience in the field and also as an educator (among many other things). (I may write up a condensed biography of her at some time to really encompass the variety of work she has covered over the years!) The first month of our conversations really encouraged me to explore the different areas of dietetics. In the past I have felt most comfortable thinking about community nutrition and least comfortable about clinical dietetics. Maybe this is because of the more sociological and education orientated background of my education at Berea (and less medical). I am finding, though, that as I explore the field more, that my interests may take me in a variety of areas, possibly both community/public health and clinical. At this point, who knows! All I know is that I am open to the possibilities!

Back to my past couple of weeks. I have been focused. With that has come productivity. Over the past couple of weeks I have been able to contact some Registered Dietitians, meet Beth Taylor (an RD in Richmond, KY and Berea College Alumna), contact the graduate program at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill about their Masters in Public Health-RD, and to apply for a job in North Carolina! SHEW! Along with all that other stuff I mentioned at the beginning. This must be what it is like to be a second semester senior about to graduate; doing a lot of research, staying on top of schoolwork and my job, along with applying for jobs and graduate schools. There seems to not be enough time in a day to do everything, and yet God has pulled me through it all!

I want to reflect upon all the productivity I mentioned above but I will allow that to be another post. I began this post with the idea that those items would be my focus, but realized that a little bit more background info was needed for readers to understand how my journey really began. I also hope to be a beacon for anyone who is hoping to pursue dietetics but is not exactly on that pathway just yet. It was not an easy choice to stay at Berea, but I feel like it was a necessary one. And if this is you too (in a program that does not lead to RD) really consider whether the education and experiences you are having right now are going to help you in the future! If so, I would then advise you to try and complete as many prerequisites as you can in your undergraduate in order to go into a great graduate program. (I will link a great post here by another blogger that covers what these are, but I hope to write my own post on the topic in the future!) There is hope! It is not always easy to evaluate the situation that you are in currently, but if you can take a few steps back to assess whether you are really on the right path, the time you save (and probably the frustrations as well) will be invaluable!

Questions are always welcome in my inbox at cameronlbc15@gmail.com

~~Lauren

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