This week I submitted my last assignment of my Masters degree – crazy!! Then it occured to me I haven’t told you guys anything about it! In September I moved to Toronto for Ryerson University’s Master of Health Science, Nutrition Communication program. For basic info about the program, you can see their brochure online, but in summary, [in my opinion], it is sort of a beautiful combination of nutrition and marketing.
It focuses on how to USE all the technical science/nutrition info you’ve learned in your undergrad, and throw it out in the world in forms that will best serve target audiences. This is in the form of infographics, social media, television media, policy briefs, social marketing campaigns, systematic literature reviews, and more!
In the earlier years of my life I was very artsy – painting, photography, theatre arts – you name it! But when I entered university I discovered my love of science, and the artsy parts just collected dust. This program allows, and encourages, students to be creative and I am so so thankful that I could tap into that side of myself again!!
Highlight 1 – Self-directedness
If I could use two words to summarize the program I would use ‘creative’ and ‘self-directed’. What is self direction? Well it basically means you make your own decisions, explore your own topics, identify your own deliverables and set your own deadlines. My dream!!! But… it could be a bit of a nightmare for others. It really depends on your personality. I personally like making decisions, carving my own path, and pushing myself harder and harder all the time. I can self-discipline pretty well and that is a skill that I almost think is essential for this program.
For many assignments, we were given a general guideline and a LOT of flexibility around how to approach it and the deadline was in a range – for example it could be due March 2 – March 16, and you chose either day in between to submit. This gives you flexibility to work around everything else you have going on – work, life, whatever! I loved it. I got to explore numerous topics and gain skills that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t given this flexibility. For example, I challenged myself to increase my meat alternative consumption (learning a lot about plant based diets and behaviour change theories), took extra courses in money management (finally developing skills that I always wished I had time to work on) and developed a 3-year professional development plan based on my personal values and goals.
I could go on about this forever, so I’m going to write a seperate post about self-directiveness because it really is a huge concept and something I think potential applicants to the program should be very aware of.
Highlight 2 – Media Training w/ Sue Mah
If this name doesn’t ring a bell, look her up! Sue Mah is what I call a ‘celebrity dietitian’. You’ll see her on TV all the time, radio shows, newspapers – etc! She is co-founder of Nutrition Solutions and was named Dietitian of the Year by Dietitians of Canada in 2017. Check out her site at http://www.nutritionsolutions.ca.
She really does a kick ass job at marketing nutrition information. We had the opportunity to work with her for 3 days in a ‘Media Bootcamp’ – learning the ins and outs of what it takes to be a media dietitian. At the end we even got to practice it ourselves – pretending to be on TV and interviewed by Sue Mah about a nutrition topic of our choice. It took a lot of preparation beforehand and we had to bring food props and examples as well. It was super nerve-wrecking, but super fun too!
Highlight 3 – Motivational Interviewing
If you haven’t yet heard of motivational interviewing (MI), you likely will because it’s a technique often used by dietitians in nutrition counselling (a term for talking to somebody about nutrition and helping them use it to improve their health). It has numerous components and techniques and is used to help people open up about their concerns and recognize their own potential to improve their health. These techniques really exmphasize the phrase, ‘A dietitian works with you as your partner, not an expert’. Though we are experts in food and nutrition simply spewing our information out at people isn’t going to create meaningful change. It is more complicated than that. MI is a powerful tool to help do so. We had Don Morrow, from The Monarch System come in to train us in level one and level two MI techniques. Later we had the opportunity to apply them to eachother, and also to actors who came in to create a simulated nutrition counselling appointment. Super cool! If you’re interested in learning more check out http://www.monarchsystem.com
Highlight 4 – Allll the Food ❤ ❤ ❤
If I’m talking about highlights of the program of course I have to talk about all the food we had! The perks of being in a room full of foodies all the time is that food is not a rarity. The faculty at Ryerson are incredibly supportive and often provided food at events both in and outside the classroom. Also, many nutrition projects (undergrad and masters) involve cooking food or using food demos – so there was no shortage!
Whenever our classmates got together guess what we did – eat, duh! We held a few potlucks, popped into a few restaurants, and explored the antioxidant effects of wine 😉 If you are a nutrition student reading this and you have not yet had a potluck among your colleagues – DO IT. No kidding, this will be the best potluck of your life – think of all the foodies that will be there! Putting all those cooking skills and health-minded minds in one room is a delicious idea! Of course, we have no problem splurging on treats, but it was also cool to have a variety of delicious dishes made from healthy foods that you may have no tried before!
(Creds to Jennifer Chang for the photo, and Laura Jeha for making this drool-worthy board <3333)
Overall, the MHSc program at Ryerson University (the only of it’s kind in Canada I might add ;)) was a total blast and incredibly rewarding!!! Any Masters program comes with it’s challenges of course but the staff at Ry were incredibly supportive and always have students’ best interests at heart. I have loads more to share about the program so if you’d like to hear please don’t hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org