Winter 2011

Header of In Short.


Montana's First Dietetic Internship

by Debra Redburn, College of EHHD Communications

In the past, Montana State University dietetic students who wanted to become registered dietitians had to leave Montana to fulfill their internship requirements. Food and nutrition professor Alison Harmon said this is no longer the case.

In November, the American Dietetic Association and Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) granted candidacy accreditation to MSU for the state’s first dietetic internship, which allows the program to begin offering rotations to students pursuing a career in dietetics. The accreditation process began over a year ago when Harmon began exploring possibilities of a self-supporting program for MSU. Former department head for Health and Human Development, Tim Dunnagan, encouraged Harmon to begin the process by submitting an eligibility report, followed by a self-study.
After a positive site visit from CADE in May 2010 and the hiring of director Coleen Kaiser (a former Extension nutrition education coordinator at MSU), the internship program became a reality.

“The state of Montana will now have its own internship and MSU students will have preference,” said Harmon.

Beginning in February 2011, the Montana Dietetic Internship (MDI) will accept the first class for orientation beginning in August 2011. Fourteen students will intern for the 10-month program, which includes a variety of rotations, as well as an online course set up in modules.

“During the internship, students will be supervised by preceptors (mentors),” said Harmon. “Preceptors are professionals who are willing to support opportunities for on-site field experiences.”

nutrition students

Nutrition students prepare a meal in the foods lab in Herrick Hall.


towne's harvest
Students harvesting carrots at Towne's Harvest Garden.

Rotations include exposure to a variety of situations that registered dietitians might encounter in their careers and include hospitals, K-12 school food service, Extension nutrition programs, and sustainable food programs. Students will also serve a six-week self-selected rotation, which could focus on pediatrics, long-term care facilities, sports nutrition, or the restaurant industry.

“All dietetic internships in the United States have supervised practice in the areas of clinical, food service, and community nutrition,” said Harmon. “What makes MSU special is our concentration in sustainable foods. That makes it different from almost all others.”

All interns will spend two weeks working with Towne’s Harvest Garden, the university’s two-acre vegetable farm west of campus which provides hands-on experience for locally grown, sustainable foods.

Director Coleen Kaiser sees the new program as a way for MSU to help fulfill the needs of the state of Montana.

“This program is so in line with our land grant mission,” said Kaiser. “We feel very good about being able to provide this opportunity to Montana students and to the state of Montana. Our students already know about the needs of small communities in the state.”

Hannah Cowgill agrees with Kaiser. Cowgill has a Masters in Health and Human Development with an emphasis in nutrition and exercise science from MSU. She is employed as a nutrition and physical activity coordinator with the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity program (NAPA) and has a strong interest in the internship. Cowgill says there are nutrition issues, specifically in rural and Native populations that are unique to Montana.

“Montana is largely a rural state with a lot of space. This geographic barrier requires unique solutions to nutritionally adequate and appropriate food and physical activity opportunities,” said Cowgill.

Fortunately, she says many undergraduate nutrition and dietetic students have already established relationships and connections to communities in the state. They understand the barriers, challenges, and needs of Montana.

Cowgill concludes, “This internship will be generating success by putting Montana students through a Montana program. They will graduate and stay in the state to be professionals. What an awesome opportunity for Montana students!”

For more information, please contact Coleen Kaiser at:coleenk@montana.edu

or Alison Harmon at: harmon@montana.edu

College of EHHD