Students across Florida are shining bright, like Paige Courtier, this month’s student spotlight. She’s a junior Nutrition and Dietetics student, Research Assistant, and NutriNews recipe writer at the University of North Florida.  She has overcome challenges and shown grit during her time at the UNF. Read on to learn more about Paige’s journey to becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

headshot photo of nutrition and dietetics student Paige Courtier

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

A: I am 21 years old and am originally from Long Island, New York. I grew up in New York and moved to Tampa, Florida when I was 16 years old. I received my Associate degree at Hillsborough Community College in 2020, and then I transferred to the University of North Florida here in Jacksonville, Florida in 2020. I am kind of a homebody. I enjoy getting out now and then but for the most part, I am happiest at home, relaxing, drinking tea, cooking, and reading. I also enjoy activities like yoga, taking walks, and working out.


Q: Where do you live right now?

A: I currently live in the Jacksonville area about 10 minutes from school.


Q: Where do you go to school? What are you studying?

A: I go to the University of North Florida, but I got my associates degree and completed my nutrition prerequisites in Tampa before transferring. I am studying Nutrition and Dietetics at UNF.


Q: Why did you choose to learn about nutrition?

A: When I was 14, I decided I wanted to develop healthier habits, so I began incorporating more nutritionally dense foods into my diet and exercising more frequently. I became passionate about nutrition once I noticed the positive impact proper nutrition had on how I felt both physically and mentally. This passion I developed is what led me to want to study nutrition.


Q: Tell me about some of your accomplishments as a nutrition student.

A: I think my greatest accomplishment as a nutrition student was being able to overcome barriers and becoming involved in research. I worked as a paid Research Assistant for the study coordinator on the Happy Gut Study from May 2020 to December 2020. I developed a greater understanding of research and how it works. I have also become more confident in my ability to analyze research.


Q: Tell me a little bit more about your involvement with the Happy Gut Study. What did your role include?

A: So I started as Research Assistant in May of 2021. I assisted my professor, Professor Baron at the University of North Florida with multiple tasks. I greeted participants as they came in, reviewed the consent form with them, and measured their height and body composition using the InBody machine. Additionally, I prepared sauerkraut samples for participants and performed 24-Hour dietary recalls with participants. Lastly, I assembled, labeled, and mailed stool collection kits to participants. In August, I took on more responsibilities and started the role of study coordinator. I became in charge of recruiting participants and performing orientation phone calls in which I went over the consent form with them and answered any questions they had about the study. I entered the data that they gave me over the phone into the computer, set up their first appointments, and mailed out their stool collection kits. I additionally entered their information into multiple excel spreadsheets. Throughout each participant’s duration of the study, I made sure to keep in touch with them to set up or reschedule appointments and make sure they have enough sauerkraut if they are in the intervention group.


Q: What challenges have you experienced as a nutrition student, and how have you overcome them?

A: I think the greatest challenge I experienced as a nutrition student was having to begin the program with 17 credit hours in the Fall of 2020. I had just moved out on my own for the first time and was getting adjusted to being on my own. Simultaneously, I was taking 17 credit hours and working as a cashier at Whole Foods about 25 hours a week. Although it was challenging, one of my professors provided me with so much support and encouragement. I feel like it did kind of work out in the end because it opened me up to new opportunities such as the Happy Gut Study.


Q: What have you enjoyed about the University of North Florida program?

A: The faculty is supportive and the courses are really interesting. I remember being in my prerequisites and waiting for the day I could take my core classes. I also appreciate how the nutrition program is very well-rounded, it encompasses food science, nutrition, sustainability, inequalities within the food system, and so much more. I’m excited to start taking more nutrition-focused courses this upcoming semester.


Q: What are your career aspirations at this time?

A: Right now, I want to see where my experiences end up taking me. After I graduate with my BS, I plan to go directly onto my MS. I then want to go on and complete my Dietetic Internship, take my RD exam and become a Registered Dietitian. I am open-minded to working in different areas of nutrition. However, I currently do have a particular interest in women’s health and psychological health concerning nutrition. I would like to have my private practice one day, however, I’m still open to other opportunities.

By Larissa DePasqua