Finally A Nutrition Professional: Post-Graduation Reflection

Yaasss!!! I did it! Me holding up my placeholder diploma after the ceremony. 

Yaasss!!! I did it! Me holding up my placeholder diploma after the ceremony. 

So, I graduated this past Sunday with a Master of Science degree in Nutrition Education from American University. It still doesn't feel real that I'm finished with graduate school (for now) and that I've achieved such a major accomplishment in a field I love! That is huge for me, HUGE! If you had asked me five years ago, that my health and wellness journey would lead me to this moment, I would've rolled my eyes and lectured you on the master plan I've laid out for my life. But life throws us through a loop sometimes and makes us rethink our purpose. 

Two years ago, I was trying to force myself to follow my original plan to build a career in the marine and environmental sciences. During the latter half of my undergrad years, I took a huge risk and went to school year-round and wrecked my GPA after suffering from mental burnout. Though I finished somewhat strongly (except for that damned organic chemistry class) and had great references from my professors, they weren't enough for me to get into graduate school without retaking some classes after I'd already earned my degree. I wanted so badly to become an environmental chemist and/or geologist and follow through on the plans I'd set for myself. 

But, that wasn't what I wanted. It was what other people wanted for me and it was what I thought I was supposed to be doing. I mean, who wouldn't want to capitalize on a STEM degree in Marine Science, especially as the field continues to grow due to growing environmental issues such as climate change? Not me, not anymore. Two years ago, I realized it was time to let those plans go and focus on what truly made me happy and where I could put my scientific background to use - nutrition and health. Though passion can be fleeting, my love and commitment to healthy cooking, addressing behavior change, and overall wellness never wavered. Accepting that was my true path lifted a burden off my shoulders of what I thought I was supposed to do and move forward with what I knew I was born to do. 

So much for that grand "master plan." 

When I began my graduate program in the fall of 2016, there was never a doubt that this was the right move, loans be damned. Right out of the gate, I began to excel, absorb, and take advantage of the knowledge, skills, and mentor/mentee relationships provided to me. During my time at American University, I became close with my professors and program advisors, learned the science behind nutrition, developed health coaching techniques, the skills to create strategic plans and proposals for research and other health initiatives, became inspired to pursue diabetes research, became a health and wellness public speaker, and much more. Now that it's all over, I realize that my program exceeded all of my expectations and gave me the confidence and skills to hit the ground running, whether it be to start my own business as a health coach or nutrition consultant, to pursue certification as a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), get involved in corporate wellness, non-profit wellness initiatives, or continue my education at the Ph.D. level. 

I'm extremely grateful for the foundation my graduate education has provided me and at this time, I have to remember that it's exactly what this experience was - a foundation to build a successful career as a Nutrition Educator, CDE, Nutritionist, etc. and to use that foundation to change lives and possibly the world. The standards are high but with the education from AU's Nutrition Education program, I have all of the tools I need to reach them. My professor/mentor told me I am now a Nutrition professional and I'm finally ready to step into that role and make my personal mark on this industry. I'm ready to make a positive impact on many people's lives, take advantage of the right opportunities, and see where this path leads me. 

The best thing about this reflection? It's the realization that I'm just getting started and am on the path to doing great things. 

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