Graduating student spotlight: Casey Collins

Self-experimentation inspires student to pursue nutrition

Casey Collins

Casey Collins will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in Nutrition – Dietetics on June 16. As an honors student, Casey collaborated with nutrition faculty, a fellow student and Oregon State Ecampus to create an interactive video that explains changes to the nutrition label.

What led you to choose your degree?

“I had heard somewhere that if you eat too many carrots, you can turn orange. Naturally, I began eating all the carrots. If you’re wondering if I turned orange, the answer is yes. Anyway, this investigation of how food could act as a bronzer during the winter months sparked a curiosity in the physiological effects of food and nutrition.

“When I was a senior in high school (still with a beautiful orange tint), I made the decision to pursue a degree in nutrition. I wanted to explore preventive medicine and perhaps become a naturopathic doctor. Luckily, Oregon State University offered a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. The fact that orange was a prominent color at the university had no bearing on my decision. As I began my degree, I discovered not just a natural aptitude, but also a strong interest in metabolism, biochemistry and restoring people to their natural, healthy state.”

Did you face any significant challenges while pursuing your degree?

“When I came to college, I did not know how to say no. Too often, I put myself in situations where I compromised my sleep, nutrition and prayer life in order to fulfill my social, academic or volunteer commitments. Not prioritizing my health, especially my spiritual health, had a toll and I soon found myself burned out and overwhelmed, like a well run dry.

“After a particularly difficult term, I went on a spiritual pilgrimage, walking from Salem to Portland. One of my intentions for walking was to ask God to help reorganize my life. I then discerned that the only way to do this reorganization was to prioritize prayer above everything. So, one by one, I uncommitted from all of my volunteering. That next year, I committed myself to Jesus every morning, learned how to say no, and experienced a profound peace that remains to this day.”

What is your proudest accomplishment while at Oregon State?

“I had the privilege of working with nutrition faculty Ingrid Skoog and Siew Sun Wong, dietetic colleague Jarrett Knodel, and Oregon State Ecampus faculty Drew Olson, Rick Henry and Austen Spaeth on a video project explaining the new changes to the food label. Fortunately, I adapted this collaborative video project into my Honors Thesis Project. The project took a little under two years to complete and incorporated Ingrid’s vision, Jarrett’s comedic writing and my theatre expertise into an engaging and educational video.

“I am incredibly proud of the video and grateful to all involved on the project, especially Ingrid, who invested countless hours into my personal and professional development. If you are interested in checking out the process, my thesis is within the ScholarsArchive@OSU under the title Changes to the food label: Engaging and educating via interactive video. The video can also be viewed online.*

What’s next for Casey?

“This coming year, I have committed to the Volunteer Missionary Program for the Newman Center at Oregon State University. The Newman Center’s motto is, “Students for Christ, Christians for the world.” Led by missionaries of the St. John Society and Society of Mary, the Newman Center is dedicated to the evangelization of students, helping form the next generation of leaders with souls flooded with light and inflamed with love.

“My soul has thrived in this Christ-centered community. I’ve developed an interior life, accompanied younger students as they desire to grow in their faith, served on three international mission trips, given talks for formation programs, shared my gifts and talents for Mass and retreats, and became more authentically Casey.

“In February, when I was invited to be a volunteer missionary and give one year of full-time service to the Newman Center, I enthusiastically responded, ‘YES!’ A desire burns in my heart to help other students experience this same love that I’ve received during my time at the Newman Center.”

How has being in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences prepared you for what’s next?

“The College of Public Health and Human Sciences has connected me with faculty like Ingrid Skoog and Neilann Horner who have inspired ambition, wisdom and passion, leaving an indelible mark on my heart. These mentors have encouraged me to reach out for more and pursue my dreams.”

What advice do you have for current students?

“Ask the hard questions, seek out the truth and refuse mediocrity. Also, Withycombe Hall sells cheese. I didn’t know about that for years and I wish I did because it’s delicious.”

Any final thoughts about your time at Oregon State?

“My time at Oregon State was marked by adventures and adversity. I am grateful for the people who invested in me and pushed me to discover my deepest identity.”

*Property of Oregon State Ecampus.