Student Spotlight: Melanie Berdyck, MSAN Program
Melanie Berdyck is a dietitian and student in the UNE Online Master’s of Science in Applied Nutrition program. We spoke to Melanie recently about her work, her online graduate school experience, and her thoughts about the Applied Nutrition program.
What encouraged you to pursue your Master’s in Applied Nutrition?
I earned my Bachelor’s of Science in Dietetics in 2008, and I’ve been working in the field as a dietitian for about ten years now. Most of the people I work with have advanced degrees, and I’ve always had the feeling that there was so much more to learn – so I decided to go back to school. I figure that I have about another 40 years or so working in my career, so I want to keep current in my industry.
I also went back to school to strengthen and improve my resume and to gain additional expertise in the area of nutrition. When you’re in the industry and working in just one particular area, you can tend to get a little rusty in other areas. So this program has been great for me. As I’ve changed my career path, the academic curriculum has fallen in line with everything that I’ve been doing professionally. It has worked out well. I am finishing up class number nine right now, so I’m on track to finish in August. I’m down to the last six months in the program!
What attracted me to UNE Online was the curriculum. I found that I was able to focus on all the topics that were interesting to me. So far I’ve been able to apply nearly every single thing that I’ve learned in class directly to what I do in my job, which has been fantastic. I feel like I’ve found a good fit for me and my career.
What type of work do you do?
I’m an in-store nutritionist, also called a retail dietitian. I work for a grocery store chain in Maryland, which is part of a larger worldwide chain of grocery stores. My office is located in one of the grocery store locations, and I do many consults with customers in-store, along with a great deal of customer outreach and education.
What are you planning to do with your degree?
I worked in a hospital setting as a clinical dietitian for the first six years of my career. Most dietitians work in a hospital setting when they first start out, but being a clinical dietitian wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do forever. I’ve always wanted to work in the retail world. And I’ve gotten to that point in the last ten years – I have a great job right now!
Getting this Master’s degree is about preparing myself for the next 20-30 years because the nutrition world is extremely competitive. About two years ago when I was looking into different career paths and reviewing job descriptions across the industry, I noticed that a lot of jobs required a Master’s degree. That was a driving factor as well. I didn’t want to miss out on future opportunities, or lose out on a potentially good job offer just because I don’t have a Master’s.
How did you decide on UNE?
With my dietetics degree and my career, I knew I wanted to focus on nutrition and wellness. So I did a lot of research, looked at several universities, and I kept coming back to the UNE Online website. I was drawn to the curriculum lineup. All the classes sounded interesting to me, and the fact that I could finish my Master’s in two years was a strong feature too. I had a good feeling about the program, and it has worked out well.
My undergraduate degree was a sort of hybrid program. I lived on campus, but I did many classes online. So I had some experience with online learning. I also knew that with my work schedule, it was going to be a challenge to get to a classroom, so I liked that the program was built for working professionals. I was happy that I could qualify as being a full-time student taking one class at a time over 8-week semesters. I knew that online would be the most flexible solution for me, and it has all worked out well so far.
What did you like about UNE and your program?
I’ve chosen ‘Obesity and Health Promotion’ as a focus area, and I’ve found that the curriculum applies to what I run into on a daily basis. When you work in the clinical field for a while, you may specialize in one area. So I like that now that I’ve branched out into community education, everything that we have focused on in class I’ve been able to apply to everyday experiences at work.
So, for instance, we focused on improving motivational interviewing skills in class which has been helpful in my day to day work. We’ve also been examining food trends, media, and legislation, all of which affect consumer shopping habits and eating habits. Every class has been super helpful. I feel confident in the skills I’ve gained, and I feel like my baseline knowledge has improved.
Even the more difficult Research Methods classes have helped. I feel that I am better able to analyze research studies now that I know exactly what to look for, and I have a deeper understanding of how the studies are developed. The program has already been helpful for me professionally, and I’ve been able to pass along information on to my coworkers, who have all been encouraging.
Flexibility is key
The flexibility of the program has been great. The professors have been fantastic, and I’ve found too, that many the professors that I’ve worked with have been accommodating. One professor was happy to work with my schedule and speak with me over the phone on a Sunday morning and gave me some great ideas for projects.
Across the board, I’ve found the faculty to be accommodating, which has been helpful in more difficult classes. Everyone has been great, and I’ve found that having more contact with the professor has helped me get through the course a little more easily.
If there’s one thing you would want a potential student to know before starting in this program, what would it be?
Time management and staying on top of your assignments are the two biggest things. Basically, you never want to take a day off. You may have a whole week to finish an assignment, but sometimes they can take longer than you think. So as long as you work diligently daily, it’s manageable. Just make sure you put all due dates on your calendar! It can be done.
Your Student Support Specialist tells you to expect an average of about 20 hours of school work a week, give or take, but I know it takes me more than that. So if you ever have the opportunity to have an extra couple days, jump on that next assignment early, because it can take hours to make sure everything is just right. Even the weekly discussions may seem like short posts, but it time to gather your thoughts, and make sure you have proper citations. Sometimes it’s an area that you haven’t worked in recently, and you’re a little rusty on the concepts.
There have been moments where it’s been stressful, but I’m glad that I decided to go back to school.
Interested in getting your Master’s in Applied Nutrition? Let’s chat! Give us a call at 1(855) 751-4447 or reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.