BROOKINGS – Jenna Christianson had already decided to return to South Dakota State University for a graduate dietetic internship when news came that she was awarded a national scholarship.
The highly competitive scholarship, which is based on her undergraduate academic performance and leadership potential within her field of study, was awarded by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals.
Christianson, a Hendricks, Minnesota, native, earned a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and dietetics in 2019 and earned preselection into the graduate internship, which is merged with a Master of Science in nutrition and exercise science.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be recognized by others in your field for the work you’ve done,” Christianson said. “It’s also very reassuring and motivating that what you’re doing is worthwhile. I feel truly grateful to be invested in.”
During her time as an undergraduate, Christianson was a part of the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College. For an honors independent study project, she conducted research about wellness on college campuses. The objective was to explore the health-related knowledge, beliefs and attitudes of college students.
She started the study during her sophomore year, and her final work was published in the journal Topics in Clinical Nutrition in spring 2019.
The topics of health and food have been important to Christianson for as long as she can remember, which might explain why she enjoys her studies and continues to excel.
“I’ve always had a passion for cooking,” Christianson explained. “That eventually grew into an interest in how what we eat truly affects the body. Nutrition is a young science, and I enjoy continuing to learn.”
Lacey McCormack, director of the didactic program in dietetics, recognizes Christianson’s passion serves as self-motivation – something that helps set her apart from her peers.
“Jenna takes initiative,” McCormack said. “She’s passionate about so many areas of dietetics and seeks experiences that will help her learn more about those areas. She puts her whole heart and effort into everything, leads by example and is a wonderful ambassador for our program at SDSU and the dietetics profession.”
Though Christianson received national attention, she chose to return to SDSU for her graduate internship – the significance of which is not lost on faculty who know her best. Kendra Kattelmann, the health and nutritional sciences department head, believes Christianson, with her academic portfolio, would have competed for any national dietetic internship.
As for what comes after her internship, Christianson seems to have the first step figured out.
“After completing my internship at SDSU, I plan on sitting for my exam to become a registered dietitian,” she said. “After that, I’m very open about future opportunities. However, I am extremely passionate about women’s health and wellness and always plan on incorporating this passion into my work.”