Seniors majoring in Nutrition, Fitness and Health (NFH) take F&N 415, Practicum in Nutrition, Fitness and Health. As a capstone course for the major, it allows students to apply the theories, knowledge and skills they have acquired. Each team of two students is matched with one adult client. Over the course of one semester, students meet with the client twelve times. Specific client goals vary, but the overall objective is for the student “consultant” to assist the adult “client” in improving his/her nutrition, fitness and general health status.
IImplementation of the nutrition and fitness programs is highly anticipated, especially by the clients. Two exercise facilities are available to clients free of charge during the semester of their participation: the A.H. Ismail Fitness and Nutrition Research and Education Center and the Aquatic Center in the Recreational Sports Center. Nutrition-related discussions are typically held in a private space in the Ismail Center, but they have also included personalized tours and tips at local grocery stores and private cooking demonstrations in the food labs at Stone Hall. While following the clients’ progress, students incorporate behavior change strategies and modify the nutrition/fitness programs as needed. In addition, clear and concise documentation of every client meeting is required, which serves to develop students’ critical thinking and writing skills.
Outside of student/client meetings, students gather for weekly “roundtable discussions”. Here, they share tools, techniques, successes and struggles from their client experiences. Students relish this opportunity to learn from their peers and to speak on a professional level with one another.
In the end, it’s a win-win situation for all parties. Client satisfaction has been such that word of mouth has brought in all the necessary clients, save for one recruitment advertisement over a period of seven years. One client remarked, “I think this is an excellent program and would gladly act as [a] poster child should you need one!” And students give high marks as well: “This course was exciting and challenging.”
The course is taught in the fall and spring semesters by Rachel A. Clark. She has been with the Foods and Nutrition dept since 2001. She also has duties in the department of Intercollegiate Athletics where she practices as a board-certified sports dietitian.