Theresa Menke

theresa menkeName: Theresa Menke
Hometown: Wyoming, Minn.
Degree Pursuing: Nutrition M.S.
Adviser: Linda Brady
Research TitleThe Impact of Peer Counseling in Breastfeeding Promotional Programs for Women in the United States
I’m doing a review of studies completed using peer counseling methods to increase breastfeeding initiation and/or duration in groups of women that historically have low rates of breastfeeding in the United States to see if these programs work, and where the focus of the programs should be in the future.

How did you become interested in nutrition? 
After graduating from college, I did research here at the U of M in agriculture because of my interest in working with plants. Several of the undergraduate students in our lab had a food science and nutrition focus, and talked about their studies frequently. I was still searching for a masters degree that was right for me, and the longer I spoke with them about their studies, the more I found that nutrition would be a great fit for me and where I hoped to go with my own career. From there, things just fell into place.

Why did you choose the University of Minnesota?
I am from Minnesota originally, and after being away from my family during my undergraduate studies, I decided to move back to be close to them once again. The U of M seemed like a great choice because of the variety of classes that they offered, and the potential connections I could make with classmates and the community here in the Twin Cities. I also happened to meet my wonderful husband, a Saint Paul native, while I was doing research at the University, and we both decided that we would like to stay in the Twin Cities for a while longer.

Why did you choose your research focus? 
I chose my research topic because I personally know many mothers, and despite having lots of love and support from family and friends, breastfeeding is still a huge challenge for them. I cannot even imagine how hard it must be for a woman to choose to breastfeed when she does not have enough support, and that’s why breastfeeding promotion, and especially the bond formed through peer counseling is so important. I hope that my career in the future will put me in a position where I can make a lasting impact on the lives of men, women, and children who may not have the support they need to make good nutritional choices.

What are your future plans?
I will begin my dietetic internship this August through the Emily Program, and plan to take my RD exam afterward. Although my career goals beyond the internship are undecided as of yet, I hope that the internship will help me focus in on the areas of dietetic work that I would enjoy the most.