The students of MSU Denver’s nutrition program have many questions and concerns. It can be hard to know if you’re on the right track, especially if you want to pursue a dietetic internship. Perhaps the best way to find answers is to ask those who have completed the program. Christopher Shelton Graduated from MSU Denver’s Human Dietetics and Nutrition Program in the fall of 2014. While at MSU Denver, he served as Co-President of the Auraria Campus Student Dietetics Association (ACSDA) and was the creator and original editor of the ACSDA nutrition blog. These are his thoughts on how to be successful in MSU Denver’s nutrition program.
ACSDA: So, you’ve got your bachelors of science in human dietetics and nutrition…how do you feel?
Chris: I’m excited -- now I can go out and try to make the world a healthier place.
ACSDA: Did you receive a dietetic internship?
Chris: I was matched with Sodexo in the fall of 2014 and I start in the spring of 2015.
ACSDA: Why do you believe you were awarded an internship?
Chris: I feel I was matched because I was heavily involved in school activities and volunteer opportunities. Sodexo has a minimum GPA requirement, but my GPA was not a priority for them. They wanted to see that I had a passion for this profession, which I demonstrated by volunteering in nutrition areas I was interested in (community nutrition). I picked two places to volunteer, primarily, and I volunteered for at least one year in each of them. I also did other small volunteer projects, but I wanted to pick two organizations to volunteer for and stick with them for at least a year to demonstrate my dedication and ability to be responsible.
When you volunteer somewhere, I would recommend you do something to make yourself stand out. Identify a need at the place you volunteer and come up with a solution to that problem. It could be as simple as helping an organization with its nutrition marketing, or giving a presentation to raise awareness, or starting some other project. Just see the project through and do it well.
I don’t have any MNT experience, either. But I addressed that issue in my application by outlining all of the things I had done in other areas and showing them that I could apply that same eagerness to learn and succeed to my MNT rotations.
Also, I developed relationships with professors and supervisors of the places for which I volunteered so that when it came time for them to write letters of recommendation, they knew me and they knew what to write about me. (I also developed relationships with them just because they’re interesting, fun and caring people.)
ACSDA: What is the best piece of internship related advice you could give to an underclassman in this degree program?
Chris: Be involved. It’s tough to make the time. But you will get more out of your education if you are engaged with your professors and you volunteer. Your professors don’t know much about you unless you catch them in the hallway or during office hours and start chatting with them about your interests, projects and the volunteer or work things you do (and listen to their interests). When you volunteer, get to know the people at the organization.
Along those lines, it’s important to network. Getting to know people is fun and interesting, and it gives you a better support system when you’re struggling with class, DI applications, volunteer work, etc. Plus, if I ever was in a position of hiring someone, I’d give first consideration to the many great people I’ve met at school because I know them and I know they’re great. Getting to know people is a great way to job hunt, but getting to know people also makes school that much more enjoyable.
Know yourself. Some people can work full time and take six classes per semester. Others can only take 2-3 classes per semester. Do what works best for you so that you can make the most of this time.
ACSDA: Do you have a previous degree? What area of study was it in? Did it help you with this degree?
Chris: I have a previous degree in journalism and it certainly helped. But for people who get into nutrition as their first career, you can be successful if you start working/volunteering in this field and networking just like those of us who are career-changers. You just need to be passionate about something, back up that passion with volunteer or work experience in that area, and everything will take care of itself. If you work hard and enjoy what you do, people will notice.
ACSDA: Within this degree program, what was the most challenging course for you? Why?
Chris: The nutrition counseling/education class was the most challenging NUT class for me. I appreciated the class and Dr. Dormer, but this class challenges you to participate in class and practice things such as motivational interviewing in front of the class. This class challenges you to get out of your comfort zone. The best thing you can do is embrace that challenge and try to learn as much as you can from the experience. Also, Dr. Dormer is a very supportive and caring person so if you make just a little effort to get to know her and make a little effort to put yourself out there in the class, you will be rewarded.
I enjoyed all of the NUT and science classes and most of the HTE classes so the most challenging classes for me were the HCM classes as they were boring to me and required extra motivation to do well in them.
ACSDA: This is a competitive field of study. Did you feel that you were competing with your peers in the program?
Chris: I wanted everyone to do great and I felt as if my peers wanted me to do well, too, so I didn’t feel as if there was competition in the negative sense. It felt to me like we were all rooting for each other, which is another great component of this program.