Whitney Houser came to Keene State’s Dietetic Internship aiming for a career doing nutrition education in elementary schools; she expected that by the time she finished the internship, she’d have discovered the area of expertise she wanted to focus on and would have job offers in that field. As it turns out, she’s still exploring areas of focus, is heading to graduate school rather than a job, and has discovered that, while she loves education, she wants to work with college students rather than children.
"I feel like I have a direction now," she says. "I feel like this internship and the opportunity of being here have really grown me as a person."
Houser, who grew up in Seattle, has a bachelor’s degree from Central Washington University in the Pacific Northwest. Keene State’s internship program was her first choice. "Keene State’s Dietetic Internship has a really unique focus in nutrition education and wellness," she says; "really, a community focus. My experience and work history and professional interests are in community nutrition and nutrition education."
She also wanted a diversity of rotation sites, which Keene State offers. She figures she’s worked in 20 or so different sites during her internship year, including a long-term care facility, a hospital, an organic farm, a WIC clinic, a drug and alcohol rehab center, a small bakery, and a community garden program.
"It’s very diverse," she says of the rotation experience. "As a nutrition student, I feel like the more broad-spectrum exposure you can have to all the different areas a nutritionist can work, the better. This internship has given me a real upper hand in that regard."
She is now aiming for a career as a university professor, and plans to work toward a PhD. She also plans to continue community work – perhaps in a public health setting, working with communities to set up programs to ensure that nutritional food is accessible to everyone and to teach people where their food comes from. "There are real simple ways to eliminate food access issues within either urban or rural environments if we’re able to grow our own food," she says. She also wants to get out the word about the environmental impact of our food choices.
Houser’s next step is a master’s program in food and nutrition science back at Central Washington University. While she’s working on her degree, she’ll be teaching undergraduate nutrition labs as a graduate assistant.
Her advice to Dietetic Internship students? Get to know the other interns, keep an open mind when working with others, and have some ideas about paths you want to pursue, because the program requires self-direction.