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. Jesse Lunsford graduated from MSU Denver’s Human Nutrition & Dietetics program in the spring of 2014. While at MSU Denver, he was also an active student-member of the Denver Dietetics Association. These are his thoughts and experiences.
ACSDA: Why did you choose to pursue a degree in nutrition?
Jesse: I worked in sales, marketing, and management for about a decade after my first degree (2004 BA Speech Communications, Colorado State University). Sales was good to me, and I was very paycheck motivated. After realizing that was not a healthy way to live (I was 280 lbs, happy hours all the time, stressed and working too many hours) I decided to pursue something that I was more passionate about.
ACSDA: Did you receive a dietetic internship?
Jesse: I did my internship through Iowa St. University. I needed to stay in Denver and needed an accelerated program and it was the perfect fit. It was the only program I applied for.
ACSDA: What is the best piece of internship related advice you could give to an underclassman in this degree program?
Jesse: Be able to tell a story to the internship director that makes you special. Lots of people have good grades, the same volunteer hours, and everyone says “I just love helping people!” Think of something that can you set you apart and structure your personal statement and your goals in that mindset. Our internship director said she liked applicants that were interesting, that she wanted to get to know better.
I believe I got matched due to my story. I was able to communicate that this is something I was passionate about, something that mattered to me, and something I needed to do. My experiences were able to legitimize this story. I was on the Board of Directors of [the Denver Dietetics Association,] DDA while a student. I had a 2.2 GPA in my previous degree, and a 3.94 GPA in this one, and I used that in my application. I was able to prove I cared about the field.
ACSDA: What professional realm of dietetics are you most interested in?
Jesse: Public health. Clinical dietetics has never interested me, and I want to have an impact on a sweeping scale, rather than one patient at a time.
ACSDA: What is your dream job?
Jesse: I’d like to work in policy eventually. I believe this field has a need for people comfortable with public speaking, persuasion, and the ability to deal with rejection. I hope to one day work with local or national programs and/or governments on nutrition policy.
ACSDA: What are you doing now?
Jesse: Academic advising with the College of Professional Studies at MSU Denver. I am starting a Masters program in May (GP-IDEA program) hosted through North Dakota State University.
ACSDA: What would you tell someone who was considering a degree in dietetics?
Jesse: It’s a funny field to get into because the internship application process is not enjoyable, you don’t make a ton of money, the job market isn’t great, but at the end of the day it’s all still worth it. Just make sure this isn’t a default degree you picked because you didn’t know what you wanted to do. You can succeed in this field if you really want to, but it can be trying. I make less money today than I did in a previous career, but I’m also much happier.
ACSDA: This is a competitive field of study, did you feel that you were completing with your peers in the program?
Jesse: I only felt I was competing with myself. I was confident enough that if I could push myself to have the best results for me, I would be successful. I understand the idea that everyone is competing, because basically they are. However, one of the things that set me apart was my work with the mentorship program with DDA. My internship director liked that I was trying to help other students, while being a student myself. If I truly looked at it like a competition I would not have tried to help other students.
ACSDA: What makes MSU, Denver different from other universities?
Jesse: From talking with other RDs in the field I can very comfortably say the faculty at MSU, Denver are among the best. They are all highly respected, very knowledgeable, and care about their students. They truly are some of the best around.