by Carol F. Stoel
More than 650 UDC graduates proudly marched in their May 2014 commencement ceremony. Forty-five were from the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES).
With introductions from the college’s dean, Dr. Sabine O’Hara, I interviewed two outstanding graduates and learned how UDC met their education and career needs. Kelli Webster, 23, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, transferred to UDC from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. She was one of two students who graduated in environmental studies this past May. She found that UDC’s hands-on experiential learning approach was just what she wanted. She was able to combine her passion for science with her desire to put science to work; to do research and solve problems.
Webster praised the faculty for their strong support and efforts in helping her find the best internships, challenging her to try new things, and helping her shape her program. She appreciated UDC’s student-focused attitude.
Her experiences included taking advantage of UDC’s participation in the DC Consortium of Universities, which allowed her to take two courses at Howard University. With the help of faculty advisers, she squeezed three different internships into her time at UDC.
The first was at the District Department of the Environment, where she worked on water quality. The second was at UDC’s farm working on nitrogen fixation and composting. And the third was with UDC’s farmers market, developing a new “Kids Corner” for the market and developing outreach plans for farmers markets across the city, particularly in what are called “food deserts,” where it’s difficult to find fresh, healthy food.
Look for Webster at the farmers market, near the “Kids Corner.” She’s passionate about healthy food production, healthy nutrition, and urban development.
Helen Naylor received her second B.S. degree in Dietetics from UDC. Her first degree was from Towson State University in biology. She was able to complete her second degree at UDC in just two years, having fulfilled all her science requirements at Towson.
Naylor grew up in Waldorf, Maryland wanting to be a doctor, but she ended up thinking it wouldn’t be the right fit for her. After graduating from Towson, she worked at a biotechnology firm in Rockville, but wasn’t excited about the work. That’s when she discovered the field of dietetics and nutrition.
Naylor said she’d always loved food, and had some food issues growing up, but never had heard about the field. She researched possible options for getting started in the field, and discovered that both the University of Maryland and UDC offered undergraduate degrees in the field. UDC’s program was cheaper and more to her liking.
This proved to be a wise decision. She liked her program, and in particular, the hands-on experiences she had working in the community. She’s still working at the university in its Center for Nutrition, Diet, and Health. She does outreach to preschoolers and others in the community about nutrition, health, and disease prevention. She says she loves her job and that it doesn’t feel like work.
The UDC faculty were terrific in helping Naylor find internships and develop the ability to communicate with diverse groups. Because she had all her science credits, she didn’t face obstacles in getting all her courses, but she admits the program could use a few more professors.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sets the standards for certification in the field. Naylor’s next step is to complete a 1,200-hour internship. Then, she’ll be ready to sit for the National Registration exam. Once she passes it, she’ll be able to work anywhere in the country.
She’s excited about her new career, which focuses on preventing disease, rather than curing it. That’s the direction she wants to follow.