Biography: Maddie is a graduate student in the MS/DI program at the University of North Florida. She has a strong passion for sports nutrition but is well-rounded and open to various opportunities and learning experiences in additional areas in dietetics. Maddie is also a certified personal trainer, striving to assist individuals in improving their well-being through fitness and nutrition.
- Can you tell me about your undergraduate/graduate program in dietetics? What made you choose this field of study?
Why I chose to study dietetics: Throughout my whole life, I have struggled with anxiety. As a child, I was involved in competitive cheerleading which improved my anxiety levels more than anything else. As I grew out of that, I found a passion for fitness. Through fitness, I realized the foods I put into my body ultimately fuel my workouts and overall well-being. This encouraged me to want to learn more about nutrition, striving to improve other people’s health through nutrition education and counseling.
I received my Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics at Florida State University. During this program, I participated in various dietetics related volunteer and work opportunities to gain well-rounded experiences and contribute to the field of dietetics. I was also a member of the Student Dietetic Association where I served as the secretary in my senior year.
I am currently in the MS/DI program at the University of North Florida. I began this program in August and have already gained extensive knowledge, along with friends I have met who I work alongside with in this journey. This is a 16-month program with simultaneous classes and internship rotations. This program has an emphasis on evidence-based research, which I believe is developing me into a highly educated and well-rounded future dietitian. This will prepare me to have an effective approach for each intervention I give clients, improving quality of care.
- What were some of the most valuable courses you took during your program, and how did they contribute to your understanding of nutrition and dietetics?
During my undergraduate studies, the most valuable courses I took were Medical Nutrition Therapy I and II. My graduate program has built upon my foundational knowledge, enhancing my skills in nutritionally treating various diseases. I am continuously gaining a deep understanding of the pathophysiology and mechanisms of diseases and how to effectively target interventions to improve risk factors, disease states, and overall well-being.
- Did you have any specific research or internship opportunities related to nutrition during your studies? If so, can you share a memorable experience or project you worked on?
During undergrad, I participated in a research study with the Institute of Sport Sciences and Medicine. The purpose of the research study was to determine whether aerobic training or resistance training better improves health markers and burns fat in overweight, postmenopausal women. I had the opportunity to lead participants through workouts and additionally assist with VO2 max measurements. This experience was fascinating for me, as my main passion for nutrition is in the area of sports/fitness, along with my certification as a personal trainer.
- Have you been involved in any volunteer work related to nutrition or dietetics? How has that experience influenced your career aspirations or understanding of the field?
I have been involved in numerous volunteer experiences related to nutrition. I was a performance nutrition volunteer at the University of Florida and Florida State University. I also worked at an eating disorder treatment center as a dietary technician. I volunteered at other places/events, but those three were my main focus. I was always interested in mainly sports nutrition, but when I started working at Canopy Cove Eating Disorder Treatment Center, it opened my mind to the opportunities that exist. For a period of time, I thought my focus transitioned to clinical. As I continuously gain knowledge and experience in sports nutrition, it is evident that my passion is sports. I also created a nutrition and fitness Instagram (@fueledbymaddie), where I promote a healthy lifestyle in hopes of improving people’s quality of life. Through this, I have realized how much I enjoy helping people through the combination of nutrition and fitness.
- Can you share a challenging situation you encountered in your academic or work experience related to nutrition? How did you handle it, and what did you learn from it?
I encountered a challenging situation in my undergraduate volunteer work. I felt I was not getting the adequate hands-on experience I strived for, which led me to seek other opportunities outside of the sports world.
From this I learned:
- There are so many different dietetics opportunities available to you if you work for it. Do not be closed minded in one area of dietetics. It is essential to be knowledgeable in sports, clinical, community, and foodservice because you will most likely use aspects from each one in whichever expertise you pursue.
- Everything in the process of becoming an RD is temporary. It is going to be difficult; people may not treat you well, you may not enjoy everything you do, but you have keep going and stay determined.
- What are some of the key skills you have developed throughout your educational and professional journey in nutrition? How do you believe these skills will benefit you in your future career?
Key skills I have developed throughout my educational and professional journey in nutrition are time management, organization, leadership, professionalism, and public speaking. Most importantly, I believe I am just now learning how to manage anxiety, so it does not stop me from achieving what I am most passionate in: improving people’s health, longevity, and quality of life through nutrition and fitness.