In addition to their status as experts in food, nutrition and wellness, dietitians are well-rounded professionals, acting simultaneously as educators, speakers, writers, researchers and coaches. Yet every dietetics professional starts in the same place: studying nutrition as an undergrad.
Holly Bonenberger, 21, is a senior dietetics major at Olivet Nazarene University with minors in chemistry, hospitality and literature. She has raised funds for clean water in Africa, traveled to Guatemala with a team of fellow students and presented research at a professional dietetics conference. College Lifestyles™ sat down with this intelligent future dietitian to discuss what it’s like to major in a field with such a full plate of diverse opportunities.
College Lifestyles™: What inspired you to begin working toward a career in dietetics?
Holly Bonenberger: As far back as I can remember I have loved cooking food, eating food and caring for other people. I guess I’m also naturally inclined toward academics,so I knew I wanted to study something in the sciences. Dietetics perfectly marries all my passions into a career that offers a staggering array of concentrations, a solid paycheck and the opportunity to help other people live happier and healthier lives.
CL: Which area of dietetics interests you the most? Would you make a career out of it, if you could?
HB: I’d have to say community nutrition is what makes me most excited, even though I’m loving medical nutrition therapy so far. If I could make a career out of communicating nutrition information to the general population in an original and exciting way that would inspire life-long change, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I would love to do this via writing books or blogs or maybe hosting a show on Food Network or similar channel.
CL: Describe a few of your professional/educational goals. Where do you hope to be five years from now?
HB: My short-term goal is the same as most dietetics seniors: land an internship! My even shorter short-term goal is finishing and submitting my application. My literature minor has [also] revealed a personal passion for writing and editing I didn’t know I had until last semester. I also enjoy nutrition education and counseling, and being able to clearly communicate nutrition information is key to success in [a] field that requires good writing skills. I would love to work as a writer or editor for a food or nutrition magazine; serving as an Academy Spokesperson is also a long-term goal that appeals to me. In five years, I hope to have my M.S. degree in nutrition and be a practicing registered dietitian. It would be really cool if I had some writing/editing jobs on the side as well.
CL: Which organizations are you involved in as a student at Olivet? How have these involvements helped to shape your educational experience?
HB: I’ve been involved in Olivet’s Student Dietetic Association (SDA) since 2012, the year I transferred into the program, and I’ve been serving as secretary for my senior year. I love SDA because it’s helped foster relationships with other students that are as excited about dietetics as I am. It’s also been fun to have an outlet to bond around dietetics in ways that aren’t related to class.
This isn’t related to academics, but I have also run the Chicago Marathon in 2013 and 2014 as a member of the Team World Vision group at Olivet and led as a team captain for the 2014 season. My favorite part of this experience was getting to make friends outside of dietetics and encourage each other in working toward accomplishing the marathon and raising money for clean water.
CL: You joined a few team members from your missions trip to Guatemala to present research findings at the Academy’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in October 2014. What was that experience like for you?
HB: Presenting the research was a great experience; being able put on a professional suit and stand next to a research poster with my name on it, side-by-side with a team of incredible individuals who are also some of my best friends, was a pretty cool moment.
CL: What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced as a college student? How have you worked to overcome it?
HB: Learning what it means to have a healthy school-social balance is a skill that does not come easily for me, and is one I am still learning. The most valuable lessons I have learned from college are not from the classroom, but from the impromptu discussions with roommates that last into the early hours of the morning, and the countless laughs and shopping trips and memories I have made with so many awesome people over the past four years.
CL: What advice do you have for any co-eds out there thinking about declaring a major in nutrition or dietetics?
HB: Don’t be fooled by the general misunderstandings surrounding dietetics. Dietetics is a wonderful major that is incredibly rewarding; it is also a lot of really hard work. This degree is a medical degree. We take courses in human anatomy and biology; many programs, like Olivet’s, require a chemistry minor. We don’t take the MCAT or have to complete years and years of additional schooling, but we do need at least a year of post-grad experience before even being eligible to sit for the RD exam. BUT – if you’re passionate about dietetics, if you love to learn and if you are willing to put in the hours of studying and hard work, I can promise you this major gives back even more than what you put in.
With passion and determination on her side, Bonenberger is well on her way to becoming a fabulous “RD to be.” Good luck, Holls!
Images courtesy of Holly Bonenberger.
Graphic by College Lifestyles™.