Every undergraduate senior in the dietetics major knows the feeling of nervousness and excitement for the dreaded “DICAS Match Day”. This is the horrifying day when you find out whether or not you got placed with a dietetic internship, which is a required component in order to become a Registered Dietitian. Luckily, I had the honor of being accepted into the West Virginia University Graduate Dietetic Internship Program, and I was beyond ecstatic. There were so many reasons to be excited because the WVU GDI program had all the features I was looking for:
1.) It is a two-year combined master’s and dietetic internship program. This means I would receive over 1200 hours of supervised practice experience that is required to take the R.D. exam as well as having the opportunity to earn my Masters of Science degree in Human Nutrition and Foods. The perk of a combined program, such as WVU, is that I am able to get my master’s and dietetic internship completed quickly in just 2 years.
2.) Internship rotations. When I was applying to internships, one of the biggest factors in my decision was the different internship rotation sites. I thought all of the internship sites at WVU sounded very interesting! To learn more about the WVU rotation sites, click here.
3.) Research, research, research. I am a very inquisitive and curious person, and I knew I wanted to incorporate research into my internship experience. I chose the thesis option of the masters degree, meaning I will receive a research project, perform laboratory work, find results, and write a thesis. I am especially excited to have the opportunity to attend a large scientific meeting in Boston, MA in April 2013. Experimental Biology is an annual meeting for the fields of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, nutrition, and pharmacology to discuss the strides and contributions made to the field of science. I am nervous and excited because I will be presenting a student research poster at the meeting!
4.) West Virginia is a melting pot of opportunities for dietitians looking to make a difference and have an impact on the health of the community. Unfortunately, WV is the second most obese state in the U.S. and heart disease is the number one killer among West Virginians. Therefore, being a dietetic intern at WVU opened up many doors in order to educate and improve the lives of those in the Morgantown and surrounding areas.
5.) I love the big school atmosphere! Coming from Penn State to WVU was not that much of an adjustment for me in terms of size, the number of students, and the college-town atmosphere. The Mountaineers, football games, tailgates, cheering your team on during March Madness…what’s not to love?
6.) Close to home. I’m not going to lie, I am kind of a homebody and I like spending time with my family. It was very important to me that Morgantown was only an hour and a half away from my home in Pittsburgh. An added bonus is my younger brother is currently in his undergrad at WVU. It was very reassuring knowing I would have a family member, not only in the same town, but who could “show me the ropes” of Morgantown and the culture of WVU.
When I saw I had been matched with the internship, the first thing I did was, well…call my mom. The second thing I did was find out who the other interns would be in my internship class (and “friend” them on Facebook of course!). Next came finding an apartment and the big move to good old Morgantown, WV…well it’s not that big of a move from Pittsburgh, but many of the other interns come from all over the country.
Being a fresh college graduate ready to embark on the start of my career, my first taste of the WVU GDI program was called “bootcamp”. A dietetic internship BOOTCAMP!? Oh no, sounds scary right? I was definitely scared and nervous on that first day, but my nerves were soon put at ease.
The bootcamp idea was implemented by Dr. Melissa Olfert, DrPH, MS, RD, LD in her inaugural year as director of the GDI program. Bootcamp began two weeks before the start of the fall semester, August 9, 2011 – August 19, 2011 from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM at Zen Clay Cafe.
The purpose of bootcamp is for the interns to become better acquainted with:
- The other first and second year interns
- The professors and faculty
- The city of Morgantown
- The beautiful WVU campus
- The confusing PRT system
- eCampus and MIX email system
- Registering for classes
- The expectations of a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA)
- Getting your WVU ID card
- The GDI program and the student handbook
On the first day of bootcamp, the very first thing the interns were required to do was to take a personality test. A personality test? What does that have to do with bootcamp? The personality test was actually a fun icebreaker, it was a great tool to better get to know each other, and we learned what makes eachother’s personality “tick”. Each intern as well as Dr. Olfert took Carl Jung’s personality assessment, more commonly known as the Myer’s-Briggs. This assessment analyzed an individual based on 8 categories and places them into one of 16 personality types. The 8 categories are extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, judging/perceiving. I am an ENFJ, which is known as “The Giver”. What is your personality type?
During boot camp, first year interns have many points to consider:
- Do I want to embark on the Thesis or Non-Thesis option of the master’s degree?
- If the thesis option, what professor would I like to work with and what will my research project be?
- If the non-thesis option, what would I like to write my problem report about?
- What professor do I want my adviser to be?
- What professors do I want to be on my graduate committee?
- What courses do I want to take?
- How am I going to create my Plan of Study?
- What courses am I going to be a GTA for?
- How do I want to customize my internship experience in order to focus it around my personal interests?
There were many guest speakers during the 2011 bootcamp. The guest speakers and the topics they spoke about are listed below:
- Mr. Mike Tranthram, RS, MPH – HACCP, Food Safety, Sanitation
- Ms. Susan Arnold, MS, RD – Information Literacy and WVU Library Resources
- Dr. Jenny Douglas, PhD – WVU Graduate Academy
- Ms. Diane Keegan, MPA, RD, LD – Food Service Management
- Dr. Liz Quintana, EdD, MS, RD, LD, CDE – Dean Ornish Porgram
- Mr. David Friend, Mr. Dan Esposito, Ms. Cindy Alderson, Ms. Nettie Freshour – Purchasing, Receiving, Storage, Inventory, Production, Distribution, Facility Planning
- Dr. Cheryl Brown, PhD -Sustainable Ag and Food Movements
- Ms. Cathy Shaw, RD, LD – Geriatric Nutrition in Skilled Nursing Facilities
- Ms. Brenda Fisher, RD, LD – WIC Program
- Ms. Sharon Maynard, RD, LD – Industry Carrers for RD’s
- Ms. Lynn Ryan, CLC – Lactation Education
- Ms. Monica Andis, MS, RD, LD – Disabiities and Mental Health
- Dr Pamela Murray, MD, MHP – Adolescent Nutrition, Disordered Eating, Local Food Movements
- Dr. Diana Vinh, PharmD – Lab Values, Point of Care Testing
- Ms. Nettie Freshour, MS, RD, CSSD – Sports Nutrition and Campus Weight Management and Fitness Programs
- Ms. Peg Andrews, MS, RD, LD and the CAMC Outpatient/Inpatient Team – Clinical Overview for Outpatient and Inpatient
- Ms. Sarah Edwards, RD, LD, CDE – Diabetes Education
- Ms. Nicole O’Barto – Patient Counseling
- Dr. Andy Wood, PhD, MBA – Advertising, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership
- Ms. Pam Hamilton, MS, RD, LD – Culinary Partnerships
- Ms. Megan Govindan, MS, MPH, RD, LD – ServSafe, Mock RD exam, Medical Terminology
Meet the 2011 WVU Graduate Dietetic Internship Class!
- Hometown: Grand Forks, ND
- Undergrad: University of Nebaska-Lincoln
- Hometown: Lancaster, PA
- Undergrad: Messiah College
- Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
- Undergrad: West Virginia University
- Hometown: Kenya
- Graduate: WVU
During my first year in the WVU GDI program, I had taken many graduate courses, been a GTA for several undergraduate nutrition courses, and completed as much research as possible for my thesis. Over the following summer, I had just started my internship rotations when it already became time for bootcamp again! Wow, the first year of this program absolutely flew by.
Based on some of my experiences, here are some “pearls of wisdom” for other interns during their first year:
- Get AS MUCH done as your can during the first year because once the internship starts over the summer, you will want to give rotations 100% of your focus. Some of the things you want to get a head start on during the first year includes classes, research, lab work, and writing your thesis or problem report.
- Time management in grad school is a little different from undergrad because you are given many more roles and responsibilities. You are going to have a lot on your nutritional plate, including graduate courses, presentations, being a GTA for undergrad nutrition classes, grading projects, giving lectures, conducting a research project, doing lab work, and writing your thesis.
- Absorb as much information as you can because everything you learn in grad school and during the internship directly applies to your future career.
- Be opened minded. Some of the areas in nutrition I thought I was more interested actually ended up being just the opposite! For example, the first time I gave a lecture to a class of 150 undergrad students…I was absolutely terrified! But I am so glad I did it because I discovered that teaching and lecturing one of my favorite things to do and I am considering it as a possible career path!
- Customize your experience. What you put into your masters degree and the internship is what you’ll get out of it. There are very little limitations here. If you see a class you find interesting, but maybe doesn’t seem like it fits into your plan of study…go ahead and take it. If you want to incorporate a rotation into your internship that seems interesting to you, go ahead and plan it and see where it takes you!
- Network, network, network. You have an unbelievable opportunity as a WVU intern to meets dozens of prominent dietitians in the WV area. Take advantage of this!! One of the benefits of networking is that you are now considered a colleague and a professional in the dietetics field. So get to know people, ask for advice, get their business card, and make contacts.
- HAVE FUN and do what you love. I love writing, social media, and blogging and I am clearly obsessed. It is my creative outlet and it adds some fun into my day.
- On a more practical note, here are some other bonus tips!
- Don’t drive downtown on a weekday between 12PM and 5PM unless you like being stuck in traffic. Traffic can definitely be an issue in Morgantown, but it is easy to learn alternative routes (plus, the summer is much less congested compared to when school is in session).
- All of my classes were on the Evansdale campus and luckily I was able to walk there from my apartment. However, there are year-round parking passes available to buy next to the AgSci Bldg and there is also an hourly pay lot.
- Take advantage of the dietetic intern office to study and do work. There are plenty of computers, a color printer, a mini fridge, and tons and tons of nutrition textbooks and reference materials to your disposal.
- The PRT system is a great way to get from one end of campus to another. However, it tends to shut down a lot unannounced…so make sure to check the PRT status on the MIX homepage.
- Go to FOOTBALL GAMES! You’ll really get the true Mountaineer experience.
- Join an intramural sports team and go to the beautiful new Rec Center, which was only built 10 years ago.
- Adventure on the rail trail! The 48 miles of rail trail is a gorgeous (and FLAT) place along the river to walk and bike.
- Experience the beauty of West Virginia. Take a hike through Cooper’s Rock or go boating on Cheat Lake.
Anyways…back to bootcamp! This year’s bootcamp took place from August 6, 2012 – August 17, 2012 (from 9 AM – varying ending times) at the WVU Health Sciences Center. In just one year, bootcamp was already changing and evolving in order to better suit the requests and needs of the interns. Compared to last year, bootcamp is much more relaxed, laid back, and is more of a period of transition and adjustment from summer to fall semester. The new interns were given adequate free time to get many of the logistics worked out (MIX account setup, blog and ePortfolio setup, WVU ID card, payroll setup, and meeting with their potential adviser).
The second year interns were all given a 3-hour block of time where they presented on various nutritional topics. This gave the second year interns a chance to become more involved in bootcamp, provide guidance and interact with the new interns, and have independence with preparing a lesson and inviting guest speakers.
Second year intern presentation topics included:
- Roanna Martin – Local Food Systems, Local Farmer’s Markets, Farm to Table
- Mary Rodavich – The Dietitian in Social Media (Blogging, ePortfolio, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
- Emily Todhunter – Diabetes Education, Meal Planning, Counseling Techniques. Guest Speaker – Dr. Liz Quintana, EdD, MS, RD, LD, CDE
- Leah Gecheo – Childhood Obesity and West Virginia Programs. Guest Speakers – Dr. Emily Murphy and Kristen McCartney on childhood obesity programs
- Katie Mock – Nutrition Conferences, Meetings, and Organizations
Meet the 2012 WVU Graduate Dietetic Internship Class!
- Hometown: Grand Junction, CO
- Undergrad: University of Northern Colorado
- Hometown: Louisianna
- Undergrad: Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA
- Hometown: Morgantown, WV
- Undergrad: Indiana University of Pennsylvania
- Hometown: Bloomington, MN
- Undergrad: Ohio University
- Hometown: Union, WV
- Undergrad: WVU
- Hometown: Lincoln, NE
- Undergrad: University of Nebraska-Lincoln