First MND cohort
Accelerated MND program includes classwork and experiential learning
Bluffton University’s first cohort of Master of Nutrition and Dietetics students are starting their final semester of classes and experiential learning rotations before earning their graduate degrees.
The future May 2024 graduates include three students who earned their bachelor’s degrees as nutrition and dietetics majors at Bluffton University and one student who completed her undergraduate degree from another university with a completely different major.
A 2022 graduate from Jenera, Ohio, Alissa Rutherford chose to work for a year at a WIC office before pursuing graduate education. She’s completed experiential learning rotations at Mary Rutan Hospital in Bellefontaine, Ohio, and at the Paulding County WIC office. Since she already had WIC experience, Rutherford shadowed the director to learn more about leadership in the field of dietetics.
While she enjoys community-based nutrition, she can also envision herself pursuing a career in pediatric dietetics.
“I have type 1 diabetes, and that’s why I decided to go into dietetics in the first place,” explained Rutherford. “I wanted kids to see that they can grow up to be more than their diagnosis and for parents to see that their kid is going to be okay. They’re going to make it, and their life is going to be great.”
Searra Hough ’23 is from Chardon, Ohio, and was drawn to Bluffton’s program because of the one-year timeframe and her experiences as an undergraduate student.
Originally interested in sports nutrition, Hough has also embraced community-based nutrition thanks to placements at WIC in Hancock County and the Ohio State University Extension in Findlay. Through her various rotations, she’s had the opportunity to write a nutrition-based newspaper article, share about wellness programs on television, and teach children about fruits and vegetables.
As for classes, she cited Advanced Nutrition Counseling as being particularly helpful.
“In all of our rotations, we have to talk to patients and members of the community,” said Hough. “I’d describe myself as more of an introvert, but that class taught me to push past my usual boundaries, and I feel more prepared.”
Emily Wood ’23, of Lima, Ohio, also named a personal experience as the reason she’s interested in dietetics. Wood was diagnosed with celiac disease about 15 years ago.
She’s completed rotations ranging from the diabetes and bariatric outpatient clinics at Mercy Health St. Rita’s Medical Center to the food service program at Lima City Schools.
“I really like the clinical aspect of the profession, but I liked school food service more than I thought,” explained Wood.
She described the condensed format as intense but not too overwhelming.
“I’ve been able to handle it all so far,” said Wood. “I’m learning so much more about the field of dietetics in general and what you will need to know as a dietitian.”
A native of Puerto Rico, Anneliz Cora originally pursued health and human performance as an undergraduate student at Berea College in Kentucky with the goal of becoming a physical therapist. However, in her senior year, she realized a career in dietetics would better align with her passions while also helping people in need.
“It was literally last minute that I decided to change,” said Cora. “I was a senior and was like, ‘let’s see if I can find a program,’ and I am so grateful I found this one.”
Cora has also completed rotations at Hancock County WIC and the outpatient services at St. Rita’s. As of now, she’s not sure what area of dietetics she would like to pursue professionally, but she has time to figure that out.
“I have five more rotations this semester, and I’m looking forward to them,” said Cora. “I’m ready to keep learning.”
An additional student, Aaron Arora, from Fort Wayne, Ind., began the MND program this semester and is taking classes part time.
Bluffton previously offered a one-year Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP) but transitioned to a full graduate program in summer 2023 due to a licensing change in January 2024 requiring future dietitians to earn a master’s degree. In addition to the master’s degree, students complete 1,000 hours of supervised experiential learning in the program.
Bluffton’s graduate program is Candidacy Accredited by ACEND. Students who complete the undergraduate program in nutrition and dietetics at Bluffton automatically meet all course requirements for the master’s program.
Students from a non-accredited program or who majored in a closely related field such as biology, exercise science or health education may need to take additional classes before starting.