DIETETICS PROGRAM RECEIVES ADA ACCREDITATION
Bluffton University has received initial accreditation of its dietetics program by the American Dietetic Association’s Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE). The accreditation was received after the commission made a three day on-site visit of the program last spring to verify that the program met the high educational requirements of CADE.
Bluffton’s dietetics program has been "approved" by the America Dietetic Association since 1985. A recent change required that all programs undergo a more rigorous accreditation process, requiring an in-depth review by outside dietetics professionals.
For the process, reviewers came to campus and spoke with faculty, students and administrators to review the dietetics program. "They went through all of our files. We had a room set up with items such as syllabi, textbooks, course requirements and student work so that the reviewers could examine exactly what we were teaching and our student outcomes," said Deborah Myers, MS, RD, LD, associate professor of food and nutrition and dietetics program director. "It was a very tedious and time-consuming process, but one that affirms our high-quality educational standards."
Bluffton University is the only small, private university in Ohio to feature a dietetics program, and it attracts students from all over who are interested in the field. It is also the only Mennonite school to offer such a program. "When students inquire about the dietetics program, they are pretty serious about it; and are excited to find it at a small school," Myers said.
Students come to Bluffton for dietetics not only from all over Ohio, but from all over the country, as was said by Jennifer Creamer, a junior dietetics major from Westerville, Ohio, "I’ve hosted students for overnight visits from all over who are interested in the program. Just recently I had prospective students from Chicago and New York staying with me."
Bluffton University currently has two full-time dietetics professors, Myers and Kay Soltesz, Ph.D., RD, LD, professor of dietetics and family and consumer sciences department chair. "What makes our teaching staff unique is that we both have worked as practitioners at one time," Myers said. "I was at one time working at a major medical center, so I can teach the practical application, as well as the theory."
Size is a major factor in the success of Bluffton’s dietetics program, which currently enrolls about 30 students. This enables the students to engage in off-campus learning experiences during their education. One of the major elements of the program is the opportunity to collaborate with local hospitals in which students are able to review patient records, interview patients and asses their nutritional status, while under the supervision of a faculty member. "Larger schools simply cannot have opportunities like these, either due to the faculty not being able to accompany students, or a hospitals inability to accommodate so many students at once," Myers said. "We’re fortunate to be able to work with St. Rita’s Medical Center, Lima Memorial Health System and the Allen County Health Department. These institutions have also employed Bluffton graduates."
Bluffton’s size also makes it possible for them to receive individualized attention from the instructors. That one-on-one attention is what enables Bluffton’s dietetic program to have such a high success rate—for the last several years, 100 percent of the students have been placed in internships following graduation, compared to what Myers says is about 70 percent elsewhere.
Accredited internships are a requirement for becoming a registered dietitian, and competition to secure one is usually quite intense. The reason Bluffton students are more likely to land an internship is not only due to the personal attention they received throughout their education, but also because of step-by-step guidance throughout the application process. After completion of the 9-12 month internship they are eligible to take the national registration exam, and passing it earns them the registered dietitian credential.
Dietetics students are likely to end up in careers within hospitals, public health departments, consulting in long-term care facilities, nutrition counseling, food service management and research. The career possibilities are also expanding into non-traditional areas such as health journalism, food marketing and new food development. "The field of food and nutrition is broad and constantly changing and our graduates are well prepared for their future careers," said Myers.
Mandy Benton, public relations office, 3/4/05