Developing Practical Skills For An Educational Approach To Nutrition

Graduate Program: MS in Nutrition Education
Graduate Year: 2016

Hello. My name is Parker Chakales, and I am attending American University from the mountains of North Carolina. After receiving my undergraduate degree in public health, I went on to work in various nonprofit capacities before deciding to get an advanced degree. I have always loved teaching and helping others. I am also a Pilates instructor and enjoy helping people reach their health and fitness goals. I wanted to find a career path that would tap into my passions and interests, and that’s how I found AU’s Master of Science in Nutrition Education.

I am over halfway done with the program, and I love it. Its multidisciplinary approach to nutrition is providing me with the knowledge and skills I need to make a difference in my community. This program differs from most nutrition degrees in that it doesn’t focus on clinical nutrition. This is important to me because I am interested in more of an educational approach rather than a clinical approach (though both are equally valuable!). So far, I have taken courses that focus on the science of nutrition and courses that teach you how to translate that knowledge into behavior change. Many of the assignments and projects are designed to develop practical skills in nutrition education. For example, this week I am meeting with my congressional representative for an assignment. Last fall, I designed a nutrition education lesson for the preschool where I work. It was so rewarding seeing these young children actually get excited about tasting new vegetables. Just this week, one of the moms sent me a picture of her son eating broccoli; she told me “we eat ‘trees’ now thanks to Ms. Parker”. What a great feeling!

When I was thinking about this program, I was a little apprehensive about the online format. Now, I love it. With two part-time jobs and a crazy schedule, it would be impossible to fit in traditional classes. The online program allows me to do my work on my own time, but weekly due dates help to keep me on track. I enjoy interacting with my classmates in the discussion boards because it allows me to compose my thoughts in an articulate way. I also like the courses that require small groups to work together via Skype because it’s always nice to put a face and voice to a name. The professors have all made themselves available via email and phone. Overall, I am so appreciative to have the opportunity to attend this unique program without having to move to DC.

When I started the program, I had a couple of ideas of career paths that would interest me. After taking a few courses, I now have more ideas of additional careers that I want to look into. I would be interested in working with children, pregnant women, or low-income families. I think I could work in schools, nonprofits, or the health department. My options and interests have expanded since being in the MSNE program, and I look forward to exploring multiple career options to find which one suits me best.

Overall, I would recommend this program to other self-motivated individuals who are interested in an educational approach to nutrition. Good luck!

To learn more about American University’s online Master of Science in Nutrition Education, request more information or call us toll free at 855-725-7614.

  • About the Author

    Parker Chakales

    Parker Chakales is from the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. She earned her BS in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and spent the next five years working in the nonprofit sector. Currently she teaches preschool and is a certified Pilates instructor. Parker is passionate about health and education and hopes to use her MSNE to make a positive impact in her community.