After completing her PhD in Food Science from the University of Madison-Wisconsin, Peggy Spangler thought her educational journey reached the finish line – but as it turns out, she had only just begun.
A different beginning
After a career as a food scientist in dairy product development, Peggy took a break to be a stay-at- home mom. It was during this time that she thought long and hard about what she wanted to do for the remainder of her career. She arrived at the decision that she would return to school as a non-traditional student and shift her career path. This would allow her to live her true passion – helping people achieve or maintain their health through their food choices.
“Peggy is a nontraditional student who stepped out of her career to raise a family and is now returning to become a Registered Dietitian (RD),” says Neilann Horner, CPHHS associate professor and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics. “She clearly has an analytical mind and complements this strength with careful work and thoughtfully considered speech. With her return to school, Peggy has translated her interests into opportunities to be creative and serve a broad range of populations from school kids to teens and young adults, to seniors.”
Peggy stood true to her decision and will be graduating next month with her bachelor’s degree in Dietetics. She was one of 12 interns selected to begin the Dietetics Internship at Oregon State University (OSUDI) in the fall, which is required to become a RD. Associate Professor Mary Cluskey leads the 10-month program, which concludes with the final RD requirement – passing the national exam.
She reflects fondly of the time she’s spent so far in the Dietetics program.
“It’s a very strong program and we have a very high acceptance rate into internship programs,” Peggy says. “Neilann Horner is very focused on helping all of the students achieve their individual goals. The program has dedicated professors and instructors, who always have time for helping students. I’m looking forward to the internship because I will have the opportunity to complete rotations in many different areas, such as clinical settings, food service and community nutrition.”
Variety of choices
Peggy is excited about that variety of choices in the field and the many opportunities that will be available to her upon completion of her internship and completion of the RD exam. These include hospital and outpatient settings, WIC clinics, school food service, long-term care, food banks and other community settings. One potential idea she has is to become a certified diabetes educator and help people avoid declining health due to type 2 diabetes.
“All of these positions offer opportunities to help individuals through nutrition,” Peggy says. “There’s a lot of research that shows that nutrition can have a significant effect on many chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this field.”
Peggy, along with OSU dietetic intern, Anna Gianpetro, recently received an Outstanding Student Achievement Award from the Oregon Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (OAND) at the 2017 Educational Conference on May 5 in Portland, Ore. The award came with a scholarship and recognition in the September issue of the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“I felt honored to receive this award,” she says. “The OAND is a great organization that provides leadership to help advance opportunities for Oregonians to improve their health through food and nutrition. They are very supportive of students and as I move forward in my career, I hope to become more involved in the OAND and to also give back to future students as a mentor or dietetic preceptor.”
Great decision in hindsight
For Peggy, switching directions in the middle of her career has turned out to be one of her best decisions and she’s glad that she took the plunge.
“Some of my best memories have been from the time I spent going through the program with my peers,” she says. “We have a wonderful group of seniors with a great mix of traditional and non-traditional students from a wide variety of backgrounds, and we are all very supportive of each other. I have also loved getting involved in nutrition related volunteer activities on campus such as cooking classes and grocery store tours.”
Her advice for current and potential Dietetics students involves getting involved.
“There are so many volunteer opportunities available such as working at food pantries, Meals on Wheels, after-school programs, grocery store tours and recipe tasting,” Peggy says. The Nutrition and Dietetics Club is a great resource for interacting with your peers and professors, as well as finding out about volunteer activities and the opportunity to hear from RD guest speakers. You could also try and find a nutrition related student job. All these opportunities will help you clarify your goals.”
Congratulations, Peggy and the entire graduating class of Dietetic students!