Rhea Joslin, food and nutrition graduate student and dietetics intern, provides training to Zachary Welsh, an undergraduate human nutrition and dietetics major, in motivational interviewing techniques used in nutrition education. (Photo by Yenitza Melgoza)
November 23, 2020
SIU’s nutrition and dietetics programs earn maximum continuing accreditation
CARBONDALE, Ill. — Both the undergraduate and graduate human nutrition and dietetics degree programs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently earned the maximum eight-year extension on the accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). The accreditation, which goes through Dec. 31, 2028, covers the undergraduate human nutrition and dietetics program and the graduate food and nutrition program. Each program also has logged some impressive statistics, including exam pass and internship placement rates of up to 100%, in recent years.
Accreditation is vital
“This accreditation signifies that we met all of the student learning outcomes for which they regulate our programs,” said Lynn Gill, associate lecturer and didactic program director for the undergraduate program.
The programs first earned accreditation more than 20 years ago. Factors considered in the process include the percentage of students passing the national exam to become Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), students graduating within the guidelines of the accredited period, the graduates’ employment rate, graduate and employer performance satisfaction rates and the rate of students who obtain internships.
Students must earn their degrees from accredited programs if they want to become RDNs. Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration will require all who take the RDN exam to complete a minimum of a master’s degree.
In for internships
Competition is fierce for postgraduate dietetic internships. Nationally, the placement rate for students graduating from bachelor’s degree programs is about 60%. But the placement rate for SIU students is much higher. On average over the last three years, 85% of SIU’s graduates secured internships.
The ultimate goal, of course, is passing the examination and finding a career in the field of dietetics, and there too, Salukis are finding success. Graduates from SIU’s dietetic internship program had a 100% rate on the RDN exam in 2019 and 2020. That is well above the national average of 92.16%. In addition, SIU’s three-year average pass rate is nearly 2 percentage points higher than national averages.
Positive employment outlook
SIU offers a Master of Science degree in food and nutrition with a concertation in community nutrition, combined with a dietetic internship. The graduate program emphasizes health promotion and disease prevention; graduates have both the education and internship hours required in order to become RDNs.
“Graduates from the SIU dietetic internship program have a 100% employment rate in recent years,” Brenda Green, associate lecturer and dietetic internship director, said. “And 100% of employers that hire our graduates say they are very prepared for positions as entry-level dietitians.”
Green and Gill say there are many reasons the programs and students are doing so well. The curriculum incorporates the most current science and information available, along with practical skills and hands-on experiences. An advisory committee, including practicing RDNs, food service managers, dietetic internship preceptors and educators, support the programs. Students go to on-site visits to health departments and various businesses and agencies such as Bayer Crop Science and Prairie Farms Dairy to enhance their knowledge. Graduate students also get hands-on experience by providing nutrition education at Camp Beta, a camp for children with diabetes. In addition to their classroom experience, students log a 40-hour practicum in community nutrition educational activities.
SIU’s numerous student organizations give undergraduate and graduate students opportunities for practical experience, too. These include Student Nutrition Academic Council (SNAC), which works with the university and the Carbondale community to provide nutrition-related services, and the Peer Nutrition Education (PNE) program, which provides free nutrition counseling to all SIU students and faculty.
Explore this career option
To learn more about the human nutrition and dietetics bachelor’s degree program, visit nutrition.siu.edu or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional details about the master’s degree in community nutrition with dietetic internship, visit coas.siu.edu/academics/masters-degree/food-nutrition/community-nutrition or email email@example.com.