Thursday, August 22, 2013

RD 2 Be: Undergrad

With a new fall semester about to begin, I will be taking on student interns at my job. I love the fact that I can give back to the program that fueled my desire to become a dietitian and provide encouragement for RD's to be! Since I am constantly being asked about how I decided to become a dietitian, what my schooling was like, etc, let's start here with the story of undergrad...


When I arrived at Virginia Tech as a freshman (2005!), it was to become an engineer. My mom wanted me to be a Civil Engineer, but I was more thinking Biomedical. Long story short, I had applied early admission to VT's School of Engineering, showed up to my first two math classes, decided I now hated math and dropped the major within the first week. Just looooong enough to buy all that expensive software... oops :)
Go HOKIES! With Mom, Sophomore Year.
The main reason I switched was because I wanted to pursue a career that more closely reflected the healthy lifestyle I was also striving for. Yes, it was against the grain of what my parents wanted for me. Yes, I was also going through a huge rebellious phase. More importantly though, the decision served as a pivotal moment in my life in realizing the importance of following my passion and intuition. I switched majors to Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise (HNFE), originally with the intention of becoming a physical therapist, but that somehow that later evolved into me joining the dietetics program.

The dietetics option at Virginia Tech is definitely not all fun with food. It's a pretty rigorous course load with a heavy background in science and you have to maintain a 3.0 to stay in the program. I have to say though, the instructors and professors are top notch, all very knowledgable, inspiring and passionate about the field. If I wasn't sure about whether I wanted to be an RD at the beginning of the program, I was definitely 100% certain by the end! 

Course work in the first 2 years were geared towards building a foundation of scientific knowledge and general nutrition. Classes included Anatomy, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Accounting and Statistics. Nutrition classes included Introduction to Nutrition, Nutrition Across the Lifespan, Professional Dietetics. I was definitely not a model student in my first two years! Not only did I barely scrape by with a C in Professional Dietetics, I skipped my Physics final (still managed a C somehow) and made the mistake of dropping out of Biochemistry after two weeks (out of fear of failing). Due to course progression/pre-requisites, my impulse decision to drop Biochemistry set me back an entire year ... Again, oops!

The latter years of undergrad were more specialized to the field including courses in: Metabolic Nutrition (two rigorous semesters), Food Service Management, Food Selection and Preparation, Communicating with Foods, Medical Nutrition Therapy (also two challenging semesters), Community Nutrition and Science of Foods.
The "Kosher Krew"--Food Service Management Class, Junior Year
Interviewing a local natural foods store owner for Community Nutrition, Senior Year
Throughout the program our advisors stressed the importance of leadership experience and hands on experience within the field wherever possible. I have a tendency to want to be involved with everything, probably out of fear of missing out, so throughout undergrad I gained field/leadership experience by being a "diet technician" at a local hospital, personal trainer at the student gym (missing this!!), serving as president of the VT triathlon team (this too!) and coaching youth triathletes (probably my favorite) and volunteering for some community based programs. At one point I taught a 6 week kids/adolescent cooking class which was a ton of fun!

One of my favorite VT Tri pics: Smith Mountain Lake Sprint 2008. Reunion anyone??
Gaining leadership/work experience (clockwise from top left): Packing bags of fresh produce for the Micah's Backpack program, I was the "fruit fairy" for a healthy kids halloween event, picking fresh herbs at VT's Kentland Farms (to be used in dining halls) and serving as a Food Service Tech at a local hospital (don't you like my smirf hat!?)
Above all things, our program really emphasized leadership and professionalism. We were encouraged to become members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics from the get-go and to attend professional conferences and network with RD's in the field. We created extensive online portfolios (which I still utilize and update) to demonstrate our knowledge, experience and technology skills and market ourselves for jobs. I highly recommend creating an electronic portfolio if you're in college, no matter your major! Since I had an engineering-technology background, I really took to this project and even learned a little bit of HTML/CSS. This initiated my interest in web-based programming and eventually lead to the creation of this blog! Yay!
A glimpse of my professional portfolio, which was created through a Weebly platform.
Senior year is typically dedicated to finishing coursework, identifying and preparing for internships. However, since I had fallen behind a year, I took a slightly different path and chose to pursue my master's degree as part of a combined undergrad-master's program. Basically, I started my graduate coursework my senior year (5th year). It's a great program at Virginia Tech offers and I highly recommend it to anyone able to do so. Completing my master's degree as a dietitian has been invaluable and it's MUCH easier done right away!
Waiting to "Walk" with two favorite VT Tri Teammates... naturally we gravitated towards these bikes :)
Next week I'll talk a little about grad school and applying for internships!


  1. Hands down my favorite post to date :) I'm staring to look at internships...but it seems like yesterday I was sitting in Professor Lewis's HNFE class learning about the basics of nutrition. Loved communicating with foods - hands down on of my favorite classes at Tech so far!

    1. Communicating with Foods was one of my favorites too! I'm glad you appreciate the post... Hopefully other students will too. I know everyone's experience is a little different.

  2. I love this post! I am Kailey's roommate and also a rising senior in dietetics (been reading your blog in silence for a few months!) We do have an amazing program here at Virginia Tech and I got so lucky to come and switch into dietetics like you! Metabolic has been my favorite science class to date (I work with Dr. Hulver now!) but Communicating with Food taught me a whole other side to food and how people view it and use it in their lives!

    1. The joy of nutrition and dietetics is that there are so many unique paths you can take with it. The classes at Tech really helped in understanding the entire picture, while setting students up to specialize later on! Glad you're enjoying the blog :)

  3. You mention that you were president of the VT triathlon team. They stopped by our tailgate selling raffle tickets, and we won an overnight stay at the Holiday Inn (probably fall 2008 or 2009). Yay! :-)

    1. Yes, that was us! My hubby was prez at that time though... Glad you were able to benefit!

  4. Hi! My name is Taylor and am a sophomore dietetics student at VT. I came across your blog by a post by Kailey one day. I love your stance on nutrition and that you are an avid runner and triathlete! I recently ran my first marathon and did a sprint tri in the fall. If there are ever any opportunities where you need volunteers, I would love to help you out and get to know you! Feel free to email me at :


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