Change is coming to the field of nutrition and dietetics and professor Carol Friesen is ready for it.
Graduate program director for Ball State Online’s master of science in nutrition and dietetics, Carol anticipates an increase in enrollment since the Commission on Dietetic Registration has raised the minimum education required for prospective Registered Dietitians. Beginning in 2024, students will have to hold a graduate degree to sit for the national registration examination.
“We have developed a flexible online master’s degree for current dietitians who want to complete a degree while working,” says Carol, referring to the accrediting agency Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.
Inspired by a Teacher’s Suggestion
Carol, who has taught at Ball State since 1996, says she decided to become a dietitian in high school at the suggestion of a teacher.
“My passion has always been to help people from all walks of life learn how to make healthier food choices for themselves and their families,” she says.
Since choosing a career in higher education, she has published 39 articles, presented more than 90 peer-reviewed research posters, given 46 oral presentations, written chapters to nine books, and received 38 grants funded totaling $2.26 million.
Research Focuses on Nutrition Education
Most of her research has focused on nutrition education projects that seek to reduce childhood obesity, with a special interest in early childhood education; increase mothers’ breastfeeding incidence and duration; help families prepare and serve healthy, low-cost meals; and improve the nutrient intake and nutrition knowledge of individuals for use in schools, at home, and the workplace.
“Our graduate faculty are all engaged in research, putting them on the cutting edge of knowledge in their specific domains,” says Carol. “Each of us take pains to provide individualized feedback to help each student become better tomorrow than they were yesterday.”
Carol says her online colleagues are keenly aware they are teaching working adults.
Profs Prepared for Evening Emails
“Our faculty are great about keeping an eye on emails in the evening and on weekends when non-traditional students squeeze in their studies,” she says. “Let’s face it, the chances are pretty good that you are going to have a question outside the time frame of 8-5 Monday through Friday.”
Until recently, the graduate nutrition and dietetics program was only offered on campus.
When classes were moved online, says Carol, the student demand for the program “skyrocketed.” The recent implementation of the “Prior Learning Policy,” where current dietitians can earn up to nine graduate credits, if they did not receive graduate credit for their supervised practice, is also helping make graduate school more attainable and achievable for our adult students.
More Students Fulfill Goal Online
“While I truly miss interacting with our students in a classroom setting, knowing the flexibility of online education helps more students fulfill their goal of obtaining a master’s degree and advance in their career as a registered dietitian nutritionist more than makes up for missing that ‘in class’ vibe,” she says.
Although Ball State’s program provides an ideal opportunity for RDNs, Carol says she worries about current dietitians who have not earned their master’s degree.
“Ultimately the job market may not be kind to registered dietitian-nutritionists who do not have a graduate degree,” she says. “I hope our online program will provide the flexibility current dietitians need to achieve their degree.”