Throughout the month of March, we will be highlighting alumni of our DPD program as part of National Nutrition Month®.
This week we feature alumna Laura Wacker-Hansen, who graduated from the program in 2012.
Where are you currently working, and what are you doing in that position?
I am currently working at Eastern Carver County School District 112 as the assistant director of nutrition services. My work includes writing menus and recipes, departmental marketing and communications, and overseeing the overall operations of nutrition services for the district.
Why did you choose Nutrition at the University of Minnesota?
I knew coming into college that I wanted to work in the health and wellness field. I had always had a passion for food and cooking and my family had worked closely with several RDs during my grandmothers battle with renal failure, so nutrition seemed like the right fit. After taking my first nutrition class, I was new I was in the right place! As to why I chose the U, my family has been attending the University of Minnesota for 4 generations, and I knew that no matter what major I chose, I would be getting a top notch education.
What was your favorite class?
Food and Nutrition Management with Dr. Marquart. Len was the first person who really looked at me and said "working in a hospital is not your only option". All of my previous major classes were highly focused on clinical dietetics and community health. Learning about different opportunities in industry and food service and being introduced to the principles of management during the class is what ultimately led me to pursue my MBA. Taking that class is what set my career in motion.
What is something you wish you had known during your time as a student?
I wish that I had been aware that there are so many different career paths for nutrition majors and RDs outside of clinical dietetics. When I was a student, I was laser focused on clinical dietetics and getting an internship. Even as I started to realize that clinical dietetics was not my passion, I felt like I had to keep going in that direction. After not matching to an internship program (that's another thing I wish I had known, not matching is not the end of the world!), Dr. Marquart encouraged me to pursue other options outside of the clinical setting, which ultimately led me to business school (I graduated from the coordinated MBA/Dietetic Internship program at Dominican University in River Forest, IL in 2014). A passion for nutrition, health, and wellness does not mean you have to work in a medical or clinical setting. I would encourage all nutrition students to be open to learning about many different career paths and networking with many different people.
Favorite healthy snack?
Currently, I am obsessed with chia seed pudding. I have it for breakfast almost every day! My favorite combo is chia seeds, coconut milk, and diced mango. The tropical flavors inspire warm thoughts during the cold Minnesota winter!
Funniest question that you have heard since becoming a RDN?
I have worked with several clients who thought that eggs were dairy products simply because they are perishable and they are sold in the same section of the grocery store. When your entire life revolves around nutrition and food, it can be easy to become disconnected from the reality of food literacy in our county. It is tempting to jump right in and start talking about food and nutrition at a very high level, but I have to stop myself and remember that a lot of people are very disconnected from their food, and you need to start with basics (like the fact that just because eggs are next to the milk in the grocery store does not mean that they are a dairy product!).