The University of Southern Mississippi’s Department of Nutrition and Food Systems is partnering with industry internship programs to pilot an online master’s degree in nutrition and food systems. The partnerships will provide students with competitive résumés, while fulfilling a recent mandate requiring dieticians and nutritionists taking registration exams to have a master’s degree. “Dietetic internships without a direct tie to a university are in jeopardy of losing their programs because they cannot provide the required master’s degree,” said Dr. Elaine Molaison, professor and chair of the Southern Miss Department of Nutrition and Food Systems.
Dr. Molaison and Roxanne Kingston, instructor and director of the Dietetic Internship, established partnerships with the Aramark Dietetic Internship Program and Morrison Chartwells Dietetic Internship. The program will be piloted during the 2016-2017 academic year and include interns from across the nation.
“Interns enrolled in the partnership between the Aramark Dietetic Internship Program and Southern Miss will be able to take advantage of one of the top online master’s degree programs in the country and gain experience in Aramark managed accounts,” said Cindy Banta, director of the Aramark Dietetic Program.
Patricia Callahan, located in Greenville, S.C., is one of the first students to sign up for the pilot graduate program. She is taking courses online from Southern Miss while completing her internship at Morrison Chartwells. “I know that getting my master’s degree at the same time as completing the dietetic internship will benefit me once I graduate,” said Callahan. “Not only will it make me more marketable for future jobs, it will also give me more knowledge about the field.” Callahan has enjoyed her experience so far. “The professors are more than willing to help students and want to get to know us on a personal level even though everything is done online,” she said.
Karen Smith, senior director of Morrison Healthcare Dietetic Internship, said as the partnership develops they will further align internship requirements and coursework in order to improve real-life applications and graduate-level critical thinking. Jessica Breland, a graduate student based in Hattiesburg,, has benefitted from having peers across the U.S. “Through the structure of the virtual classroom environment, that incorporates both group activities and interactive discussions, the Dietetic Internship Program has given me the opportunity to learn from the experiences of my peers,” she said. Molaison plans to fully launch the online master’s degree in nutrition and food systems by summer 2017 with hopes to partner with additional internship programs.
For more information about the Southern Miss online Master of Science in nutrition and food systems, visit https://www.usm.edu/nutrition/di.