When Nutrition and Dietetics students Rose Donepanya, Dottie Blanchard and Ruby Rivera were tasked with creating a nutrition education lesson, they took it personally.
“We are three minority females: Southeast Asian, African American and Hispanic,” said Blanchard. “As minority students, we noticed the lack of inclusion in the curriculum of dietetics, nutrition and wellness.”
Not only did they pivot – taking an in-person lesson and shifting it to a virtual format – they tackled an important topic they’ve experienced firsthand.
“We have made it our mission to educate ourselves, fellow peers, and faculty on being more inclusive of dietary practices within different ethnic groups,” Blanchard said.
The students created a podcast about raising dietary representation.
“The field of nutrition and dietetics is like many health care professions in that it lacks representation,” said Julie Patterson, assistant professor, in the School of Health Studies. “This group developed an innovative podcast on a very important topic – raising dietary representation.”
Patterson said that in order to increase our effectiveness as a profession, the profession needs to attract and retain a more diverse workforce. This podcast opens up conversations on key issues related to addressing barriers that have prevented underrepresented individuals from entering the profession and discusses issues related to honoring culture and heritage with respect to dietary practices.
“These students have decided to build upon their personal experiences with entering into the field and use this podcast in hopes of advocating for change,” Patterson said. “I was moved by how they described their positive experience at NIU, and how it was quite different than what they have experienced at other institutions with respect to diversity and inclusion.”
Donepanya said the group learned a lot from creating the podcast, and they hope others learn from it too.
“This podcast has helped us research more topics on inclusivity, increasing cultural competence, and furthering ethical approaches to the health and human sciences field,” Donepanya said. “We want to further educate those in the family and consumer health fields to become more aware of cultural traditions, practices, and religious backgrounds.”
Rivera agreed, adding that by sharing their unique perspectives and backgrounds in the nutritional field, they hope to create an opportunity for dialogue.
“The topics covered in the podcast – along with resources provided on our other social outlets – strive to educate and teach others,” Rivera said. “Our goal is to inspire, empower, and bring awareness to future Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) students.”
Listen to the podcast on Raising Dietary Representation.