It’s 12:30 a.m., and as I sleepily contemplate graduating a month from now I realize that I was a part of something special while in college and it was called research. That’s it, that good ol’ dreaded word that we hate to hear most of the time; research. Now I’m not talking about the kind of research that we slaved away at during most of our dietetic courses, no that would be too easy to discuss. I’m actually talking about research projects that faculty advisors and I designed, researched, and presented to the academic world. Now why the heck would a busy guy like me do such a thing? After all you have to deal with IRB protocol, proposal writing, funding (those checks take forever to clear), finding participants, and a whole slew of other shenanigans that no one in their right mind would purposefully endure. Well I did it, and out of all my accomplishments in college, there’s a lot mind you, completing two full research studies from beginning to end was one of my greatest achievements. It was a joy to learn new ways of writing, planning, advertising, and processing lab work into statistical data that could be used for enhancing the community. Working on an independent research project allowed me to attend unique conferences and compete against other like-minded research based students. Student research conferences allowed me to see what and how others projects developed. I was able to make new connections and partnerships for futures experiments at such events, and even made some long term friends. Researching allowed me to take a glimpse into a world where anything is possible if you question it and put it to the test. In fact, for the research projects that I did I was paid by scholarship for completing them, which was a nice little bonus. Yes, doing an independent research project is tedious, and downright excruciating, but the rewards and connections you make from it last a lifetime. If you’re a student in your freshman, sophomore, or junior year why not expand your horizon, pad your resume, and do something out of the ordinary. Try out a research project and learn something new.
The dietetic internship is something I had heard about since I was a freshman. I assumed it would be straightforward and something relatively simple to do, but I was wrong. Not that being wrong is bad. I think that applying to dietetic internships (DIs) is completely doable, but I think it would have been helpful to know what I know now – which is why I want to share it with you all!
** Disclaimer: These tips are from my personal experience alone and may have been different for others.
Tip #1: It’s never too early to get started:
- Essentially, by the time application period rolls around you should have enough experience on your resume to make you an attractive candidate. Experience is a broad category – do not limit yourself to work and school. Volunteering, helping out with a club or a professor, major projects you have done in class, or extra applicable classes you took are all things that should be included in your application. Keeping track of all you have done is also helpful so when the time comes to apply you have records of involvement at your disposal.
- You may want to start thinking of who you want to write your letters of recommendation before the application period begins. You want someone who knows you well, who writes well, and can really speak about your strengths. A minimum of three is required, but you can do more if you want to have a specific person write a letter for a specific DI. It is common courtesy (and to your benefit) to give your letter of rec writer a good amount of time to formulate a strong letter.
- Transcripts are also something to think about ahead of time. If the application opens in December, you want to request your transcripts ASAP because sometimes schools take long to process and send out transcripts. Additionally, you have to request transcripts from each school you attended. For example, if you transferred from a community college to a university, you will need official transcripts directly sent from both schools to DICAS.
Tip #2: Guidance is goodness:
- The application process can be quite tricky on its own. Not only do you have to apply on DICAS, you have to go to the matching system on D&D, but also submit (via mail or online – depends on the internship) supplemental application materials to the program to which you are applying. Taking a class such as FN 431 offered at Cal Poly Pomona is a great way to break down the application process so that it seems slightly less daunting. I personally enjoyed the Q&A style of that class because our professor was able to just answer any questions we had about the matching process. She also brought in guest speakers who were internship coordinators.
- Going to DI Open Houses is also a good way to know details of what each internship entails, what sort of qualities they are looking for in applications, and if the internship is even right for you! It is helpful to be able to network and talk to current interns as well to get a better idea of what their experiences were like when they applied and got accepted.
Tip #3: Tailor it to fit
- Not all internships are created equal. Each one has their own mission, concentration, and is looking for qualified individuals that match them. DICAS allows you to submit multiple personal statements and letters of recommendation, as well as to designate which statement or letter will go to which internship. It is a perfect way to really show that you did your research on the internship and to highlight the qualities you have that they want.
Tip #4: Stay positive
A few weeks ago a few different notices went out to Cal Poly Pomona’s’ Health Nutrition and Food Science student body about potential job postings and internships. It was a bombardment of information, and it sort of felt like when your best friend tries to convince you that the bootleg copy of Hunger Games is as good as the blue ray ultra HD version and they won’t stop talking about it. Well, this sort of mindset may be what is holding back some peers to obtaining careers that are intellectually and monetarily worthwhile. Think of it this way; in our field over 80% of promotions, or hiring to upper levels, happens from within. Now in retail and sales the opposite may be true, but we are neither. Therefore, it seems to me that the age old adage of getting your “foot in the door” may apply more so to our field than most. Now as a student, father, husband, full time worker, and social volunteer I understand how hard it is to achieve high academic standards while still taking care of life’s responsibilities. I too feel as most students do; that the first stop in my career should be worthwhile and monetarily compensating for the amount of knowledge and experience I bring. However, most times we over look great opportunities by focusing on the hourly wage or salary. We feel that if the number is to low, it is beneath us, or not equal to what we feel we deserve. At this point we should take a step back and realize that nothing in life is given and we must earn everything whether we “feel” we deserve it or not. As students we should look at the big picture and all the potential that an opportunity can bring. Many doors that we never knew where available can be opened by humbling our scholarly egos, and planning for our futures. Here are some things to think about, instead of focusing on overall salary of hourly wage.
- Health- Staying healthy is not cheap and parents can’t support us all. Certain job openings have above average pay (14.00-19.00hr or 48,000-52,000) with full health, dental, vision, sick pay. Even though the pay may seem low at first, consider the benefits of having full medical coverage. This should be a priority when considering jobs, especially if you are married, have children, or both.
- Retirement/401k/ect., ect.- If a potential job opening offers 401k benefits along with retirement benefits, then it should be considered. As the Baby Boomer population ages, there will be a flux in the way retirement is paid and honored. It’s best to stay ahead of the game, unless you want to work until your 80.
- Paid Vacations/Holidays/Sick Days/Flex Days- Many jobs opening have paid days off. What’s better that not working and getting paid for it (isn’t that called being a Senator…Jk…Jk). But seriously, this really helps out when you need a day for yourself or for other non-work related activities. It gives you peace of mind that you can “afford” to take the day off. So this is definitely something to be considered even if salary if below our expectations.
- Union position vs. Non Union- Simply put there are benefits to both. If you are looking at openings within school, state, city, county, or prison/jail systems then there is a possibility that you may be part of a union. This can be a huge factor in benefits and pay so do your research. It may benefit to take a pay cut in entry level positions if the benefits will provide stability and job security. Once again, unions can be good, bad, or just ok so do your research.
- Happiness- If the job seems awesome and interesting, and you won’t be bored then do it. There are always opportunities to grow, if you make an effort to make them happen. So be happy and even if it’s less pay you won’t regret taking a job that you love.
Now don’t get me wrong, pay rate is a big deal and is important when considering a job. Money makes the world go round, and I’m all about people getting their cake and eating it too. However, we as students need to focus on long-term responsibilities and endeavors, and consider other important factors that can benefit us in a job position. Till next time, stay classy!
You know the story. 18 year-old kid graduates from high school, moves into dorms, and starts college. Before, he used to rely on his parents to cook for him, but now since he is away from home, at the dining commons, he has greater agency to choose what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. After a couple semesters of the same old dining hall pizza, unlimited ice cream, and dorm room instant ramen (and party alcohol/tailgating) and even more weight gain may occur after leaving the dorms and moving into an apartment for independent living during the sophomore, junior, and senior years.
Undoubtedly, attending college is a period of time of learning about yourself and attaining different life skills, but between stressful exams, writing papers, studying, and sometimes working, not every college student has/learns basic cooking skills or makes the best picks when grocery shopping. This lack of essential know-how for food preparation can be problematic to public health and contributes to rising obesity rates. Generally, young adults’ food culture and choices are dominated by purchasing or making meals that are quick, easy, and convenient, but unfortunately, these microwave-ready and fast food selections are large in portion size and are high in saturated fat and sodium. So how can this remedied?
Typically, home-cooked meals can be healthier because people have the power to choose what goes into their food and to know exactly what their finished dish contains. Consequently, a few universities have opted to offer courses that coach students to be more savvy in the kitchen and at the grocery store and that teach fundamental cooking skills. For example, Stanford University’s dining services has unveiled the “Teaching Kitchen” program, headed by noted British chef, Jamie Oliver, and Oregon State University and the University of Minnesota’s Boynton Health Service have offered similar programs to their own students.
Nonetheless, not all universities offer such seminars, but the accessibility to essential kitchen knowledge is available through the internet. SpoonUniversity.com, CollegeRecipes.com, and NotYourAverageCollegeFood.com are sites and blogs that have recipes with easy kitchen hacks and for delicious meals for the busy college student. If students can be more knowledgeable in cooking and making more healthful food choices, then perhaps the current rising trend of nutrition-related health issues, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and increased risk of diabetes, in young adults can be improved.
Click these links for additional information on this conversation:
Today, more than ever, students are always trying to find a way to meet new connections and find new opportunites. Well I am here to tell you, Dr. Steve Alas is one connection you need, and the opportunites he provides can open doors never before known to students.
Dr. Alas is an associate professor and director of the SEES program. He has been teaching molecular biology at Cal Poly for almost 10 years now. Dr. Alas is a former research fellow for City of Hope cancer center and postdoctoral fellow at UCLA. He received his PhD in cancer research from UCLA, and his Bachelor’s of Science in biological science at Cal Poly Pomona. As director of the SEES program Dr. Alas oversees advising, mentoring, academic excellence workshops, science courses, research funding, research opportunities and computer facilities for under-represented minority students and first-generation college students majoring in the sciences. He is also the coordinator for the CSU-LSAMP program at Cal Poly Pomona, which is focused on broadening student involvement in the STEM core courses. Dr. Alas is also director of the SEES Health Professionals Project, funded by The California Wellness Foundation. The program focuses on under-represented juniors and seniors that will enter the health professions. As director of the Hearst SEES Apprentice Program, Dr. Alas is able to provide research opportunities to undergraduates entering the STEM fields. Students are funded to perform research with faculty at Cal Poly Pomona, Western University of Health Sciences, City of Hope National Medical Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Dr. Alas continues to work with outside sources to fund grant and scholarship programs, like the ones stated above. His expertise in research, teaching, and mentoring have allowed Dr. Alas to build a vast network of industry connections that can provide opportunites to students to gain valuable experience. Most of the programs tha Dr. Alas oversees are well funding and provide paid experience opportunities to students to do research of their choice. These programs help expose students to industry leaders and allows the students to display their skills, innovative ideas, and inventions, which many times lead to career job offers. Dr. Alas continues to put students first and is a great resource for grant and scholarship funding.
Why not set up an appointment with Dr. Steve Alas and see how he can open new doors for you. It’s never to late to make that connection.
“Put your money where you mouth is”. We have all heard this term used in different context many times before. But how does it apply to us as college students studying Dietetics, Nutrition Science, and Food Science ?
Communication is the key to success, and with emerging technology it is becoming a lost art. Some of the biggest advances in science, technology, and business have been brought about by professionally executed communication and connections between people. So why do we care? We care because professional communication and connections can land us that career we have been dreaming about since Chem 122 was finally over. We care because communication can open doors that didn’t have key holes. We care because our student loan agency loves to communicate with us, constantly reminding us how much we owe. Wouldn’t it be great to give a response!
As we start a new school year, we should take a moment to reflect on our long term goals. We would all like to have that ideal career, with a great team, great benefits, good pay, and great work environment. We would love to see our knowledge and hard work compensated by a career that gives some zero’s at the end of our checks. We as students are at a unique advantage to use our positions to learn, achieve greatness, and earn a great career in food and nutrition. We will not achieve this without opening our mouths, expressing our concerns, ideas, needs, and wants.
As students we at times get so involved in studying, writing reports, researching, and participating in school events, that we sometimes forget that building a network of professionals can help us achieve goals. Yes, many of our classmates are truly gifted, and make great friends, while others are fun to chat with on social media. However, we have in our reach a network of professionals who have long left the arena of student body and are now the experts in the fields we are striving to attain careers in. Can you guess who they are?
Our department has an eclectic mix of professors who have done everything under the sun and then some pertaining to food and nutrition. They have over a century of combined experience in all fields of food and nutrition. Some have traveled oversees for projects, while others have invented products, and yet others have done world renowned research. Some of our faculty has helped write text to bring fresh scientific fact to our textbooks. Can you name all the professors in our department? Do you know the names of the lecturers who so kindly help to teach courses in our department? Why not?! Our faculty is an abundant well of knowledge waiting to be tapped. They can help inform us on alternate careers that we may not have known about. They can mentor us, provide encouragement, and provide constructive criticism that will help mold us into the ideal professional. Our faculty may be busy, understaffed, overworked, and under appreciated at times, yet they never give up on reaching out to us as a student body. Lets return the favor and reach out to our faculty to help build our professional network of success. Say hello, make an appointment, do research with a professor, communicate, converse and connect. Yes, we are in a drought in California, but our departments faculty is a well of knowledge that is never dry. Drink up, the water is good here.
Yeah, yeah I know my play on the department club abbreviation is lame, but hey, it’s FN funny, okay? (Yes, I will wear out this pun by the end of this post). By the way, just in case you didn’t know, FN stands for Food and Nutrition Forum which is the premier club on campus. Now I may be partial, but Food and Nutrition Forum is the best club out there– hands down. This year is a change over year with many new faces and many old; including mine (yeah, I know what you were thinking….31 is old).
What does this mean? Well, it means… well, more friends, new relationships, and new connections. Dr. Martin F. Sancho-Madriz and Dr. Bonny Burns Whitmore are our advisers and they FN rock. With so much to do as a student, it helps to have a resources available outside of class that help with FN everything. This year our timely club meetings will really bring to the forefront subjects and information that will be pertinent to all students in our department, not just a few FN cliques. At club meetings we will be hearing from current professors in our department and other professionals, with information that could lead to that dream job we FN dream about constantly. So you need to be there to network with these great connections. Don’t FN miss out!
With a student body in our department at it’s highest peak, there is no shortage of new study buddies, volunteer friends, and intern connections. Branch out and meet someone new. You never know where it may lead you. As princess Jasmine would say, “its a whole new FN world”, or Ariel, “I want to go were the FN people are”. . . anyways you get my point. Now get out there and find an FN friend or two!
How do I become a better applicant? How do I build my resume? How can I become a better student? If you’ve come across any one of these questions, don’t worry, we have your answer.
The mentoring program has provided a list of well-known and beneficial volunteer opportunities. Are you wondering about how to spend your time for this upcoming summer? With each of these locations, you can gain experience, knowledge and confidence.
Don’t wait till your taking 24 units and juggling work, take advantage of your time and volunteer now! Below you’ll find several great opportunities that our mentors have personally suggested. Please take advantage and good luck!
Mentioned by: Stephanie Serpas
- Garden School Foundation in Los Angeles, CA
Become a volunteer for a beautiful fruit and vegetable garden at 24th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, CA. Help teachers continue to implement nutrition into the school curriculum by helping work the land and keep up the crops.
You can be a volunteer by going to http://www.gardenschoolfoundation.org/ and following the monthly schedule they have for Work Days.
- Garden Development in La Puente, CA
This is an EXCITING new endeavor I have that will possibly begin this summer. I have partnered with the La Puente School District and the Head start program to bring community gardens to MY neighborhood and spread the wonders of nutrition to the children of my community.
Details will come soon, interested volunteers should expect to dig, plant and get dirty, as we will be building a brand new garden! (I’m SOOO excited!!!) They have been wanting to build a pumpkin patch…so, who other than Cal Poly students to do the job?! :)
Mentioned by: Evelin Abudez
- Food Service: Senior Center in Chino, CA
Most senior centers serve lunch daily and you can have a chance to participate in the kitchen process. Perfect opportunity to put your food safety classes into practice.
Chino Senior Center, 13170 Central Ave, Chino CA 91710
- Senior Nutrition Program in Montclair, CA
Offers the opportunity to meet and serve others of the community by helping out in the kitchen area, serving coffee, or serving meals in the dining room to our senior community. You may help as often as you like. The hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. There is always room for one more volunteer.
If you would like to become part of this rewarding experience, please call Patti Pennington at (909) 625-9488
- Offer nutrition education for Hispanic Women in Montclair, CA
Looking for Bilingual ladies to participate in the program. Program is called “Por La Vida”, it offers nutrition education classes for Hispanic women.
Please call (909) 625- 9485
Mentioned by: Osvaldo Campos
- Volunteer at church in Huntington Beach, CA
Church looking for volunteers, duties involve sign up, kitchen work, and occasionally grocery shopping. May be more opportunities available than listed.
Contact Osvaldo Campos:
Cell- (951) 858-7403 or
- Headstart in Corona, CA
Volunteer opportunity includes educating families about the importance of nutrition, cooking techniques, and lifestyle changes. Spanish speaking is a plus.
Contact Osvaldo Campos:
Cell- (951) 858-7403 or
Mentioned by: Jennifer Zagorski
- Meals on Wheels
Research your local Meals on Wheels location and sign up to volunteer. Meals on Wheels is a non-profit, volunteer Community Service providing Home- Delivered meals, at cost, to any one unable to prepare or obtain adequate meals.
- Local Hospitals
Research the nearby hospital locations and interview to volunteer in the dietary office.
Mentioned by: Amanda Trang
- LA Food Bank
Private, nonprofit, charitable organization that obtains millions of pounds of surplus food that would otherwise go to waste and channels it to hundreds of thousands of hungry and needy people throughout Los Angeles County.
Remember, these are just a few options to get you started! Enjoy!
Ever think about what you put into your backpack, whether it may be your notebooks or laptop? Notice how much your backpack weighs? Sometimes you can be carrying about 10-15lbs of weight on your back! Now think about it as extra body weight. This is just a simple comparison of the weight individuals can gain within a couple months by overeating. Think about the pressure you are putting on your back and knees. If only minimizing the food we eat on our plate was as simple and easy as minimizing what we place in our backpack.
As Phillip Rhodes says, “Our bodies think we’re still hunter-gatherers threatened by imminent famine at the end of every season — even as we drive the minivan to Costco. Our supermarkets offer tens of thousands of products, often sold in packages that could feed a small nomadic tribe.”
Our perception of portions has become so distorted over time that research shows it’s hard for us to recognize what a normal portion looks like. The question comes down to: what is a serving size?
Referencing NIH, overweight and obesity affect Americans of all ages, sex, and racial/ethnic groups. This serious health problem has been growing over the last 30 years.
According to NHANES 2010, almost 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. In the past 30 years, obesity has tripled among school-aged children and teens. About 1 in 6 American children ages 2-19 are obese.
Among all the ways to change your diet, knowing the appropriate serving sizes is one. Below is a simple tool used by many to help educate one another. Take a look and share with friends and family.
“Volunteers aren’t paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless”. –Anonymous
We hear about it all too often: “get out there and volunteer, it’s a great way to build your resume”. However, most of us who have volunteered can say it is so much more than resume building. Without volunteers, some organizations would not be able to function and meet people’s needs as efficiently.
But how does the individual benefit from volunteering? Glad you asked! Volunteering provides a sense of self-worth; it is very fulfilling to know you are helping people provide a service. It also allows you to be exposed to new situations that expand your people skills, knowledge base, and perspective. Having volunteered in a hospital, I now have enough understanding of day-to-day operations that when my instructors teach about hospital-relevant topics, I can relate.
Why is that important? When the day comes that you are finally a dietitian, physician, physician assistant, or pretty much in any profession, you will find yourself ahead of the game. For instance, volunteering can ensure that your first day in a hospital will not be day 1 of your internship, medical school, etc. Imagine entering a patient’s room: what is the first thing you notice? Maybe it is the smell or the sight of someone suffering. Whatever it is you notice, it is a lot to process and it is much better to be the deer in head lights as a volunteer than as a professional. Personally, I found it very difficult to be around people suffering. I know I will spend a considerable amount of time in a hospital during my career, but now I also know that it is not where I want to settle in and grow as a dietitian. The experience allowed me to narrow down my vision of the future. Volunteering is an excellent way to get a feel for what you will be doing as a professional and can help shape your path.
We cannot ignore that volunteering is also important for resume building. Someone who has volunteered in their student club, held a position in the club, volunteered at a hospital, at WIC or a similar clinic, and/or in their community (maybe through Community Nutrition) is much better-rounded in the field of nutrition than someone who has only done what is required in classes. This well-roundedness is something all professions look for and want in their programs. It also helps you have confidence in yourself to take on new and challenging positions.
One final point to make about volunteering: being a good volunteer can land you a job! What does it mean to be a good volunteer? Be on time. Be prepared to lend a hand in all sorts of situations. Be positive. Predict where you will be needed, and be ready to take on the responsibility. For example, if I saw a nurse doing something I could do, I would offer to take it off his/her hands. This leaves the impression that I am here to help, learn, and grow rather than just observe. In my experience, if you volunteer at a location that frequently takes on volunteers, the staff tends to be wary of the amount of help they get from each individual (maybe they had a bad experience with other volunteers). Setting yourself apart and showing how dedicated you are will really have a positive impact. After I volunteered in the Dietary Office for a year, there was a position opening up and every time I worked in the office, the staff would encourage me to apply for that position. This is very common in a volunteer position when you really apply yourself and show that you take volunteering as seriously as a real job.
I invite you to let us know where you have volunteered and how your experiences have helped shape your path! Until next time, strive for greatness!
Written by Sally Saleh. BIO HERE
Part of our Featured Writers series student writers independent of the dedicated Food Digest team have an interest to write and share their thoughts. If you would be interested in writing an article for Food Digest, let us know!