“I have a genuine passion for helping people, and this career path will help me do that,” says Isa Ramos-Castillo, current UNC Greensboro dietetic intern and nutrition graduate student.
Part of UNCG’s School of Health and Human Sciences, the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate/Dietetic Internship Program prepares interns for successful, professional practice as Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN). Completion of the program also earns them verified eligibility to sit for the registration exam.
A year-long program, the dietetic internship is comprehensive, including 10 weeks of supervised preparation combined with supervised practice in the field for a total of 1,000 hours.
“This internship has motivated me to never stop learning because nutrition is a science that is ever changing,” Ramos-Castillo says. “I hope to positively impact my future patients and clients as a RDN.”
Jumping into “Dining Takeover”
Interns spend the first semester working with various programs on campus, such as Healthy UNCG!, the faculty and staff wellness program, before heading out into the community in the second semester.
This fall, interns embarked on a new on-campus opportunity: “Dining Takeover.” The 16 dietetic interns took turns stepping into a supervisory role in the Fountain View Dining Hall as part of their food service rotation. While undergraduate nutrition students have regularly worked in the dining hall as part of their coursework, this was the first semester for interns to completely take over two food stations for a day: Rooted, featuring plant-forward foods, and Delicious Without, serving foods free of the top nine allergens.
Tamika Watts, dietetic intern and nutrition graduate student, explains, “I’ve never held a food service job, so it really was just throwing myself out there and hoping that everything I learned in the classroom would help me be successful.”
The program tasked interns with applying principles of management in a large food service operation environment, focusing on food safety, production, and recipe compliance. When lunch service was done, they then had to ensure clean-up followed standard cleaning procedures.
To accomplish their duties, interns delegated tasks to undergraduate students who served as associates. For Watts, like many of the interns, this was her first experience in a supervisory role: “It was cool to see myself in that role, and my students gave me really good feedback.”
positive for interns + undergrads
The experience was so positive that Assistant Professor and Accredited Programs Coordinator Amy Moyer, RDN, LDN, believes this will become a regular piece of the internship: “All the interns enjoyed it even though they were nervous. To go into a situation that you don’t fully know what to expect is difficult, but they earned a sense of accomplishment to manage others and tackle the unknown.”
Watts agrees that the most beneficial part of the experience was getting outside her comfort zone. “I had to believe in myself and that the skills that I have acquired during my time as a nutrition student would help me to be successful in this project,” she says.
The experience was also positive for the undergraduate students. “Since they’ve already been working in the dining hall, they could actually direct the interns as to where things were located or how things work,” says Moyer. “They were able to take some ownership, which boosts their confidence as well.”
Real World Preparation
While not many UNCG dietetic interns end up in the food service industry, it was a valuable learning experience. “There is SO much that goes on in a food service operation, from the janitors to the chefs to the supervisors. Everyone plays such a vital role,” says Watts. “They are really special people and sometimes their roles go unnoticed.”
Ramos-Castillo welcomed the hands-on learning experience: “We were able to utilize our skills to ensure we were providing students with safe and delicious food.”
Justin Meadows, Director of Dining Services, adds, “Both the interns and the students from the nutrition program are motivated and truly a pleasure to have in Fountain View Dining Hall. Allowing them to work with our culinary staff lets them utilize what they have learned in the classroom and how it relates to everyday life.”
Story by Amanda Saber, AMBCopy
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications