January 24, 2011

Dietetics programs earn re-accreditation

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill -- Two programs in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently received re-accreditation from a national organization that examines dietitian programs.

The Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education recently gave its approval SIUC’s undergraduate didactic program in dietetics and its post-graduate dietetic internship program. Students who successfully complete both programs are given the opportunity to sit for the registered dietician exam. CADE sets national standards for both programs.

Practicing dietetics and nutrition professionals develop the educational standards used by CADE. Programs with CADE accreditation provide the knowledge, skills and/or competencies you need for entry into the dietetics profession.

The didactic program in dietetics prepares entry-level dietitians for the profession by offering a Bachelor of Science degree in human nutrition and dietetics. The SIUC program, established in 1977, enrolls about 90 students and was last accredited by CADE in 2000.

A team of program reviewers examined documents, including a self-study completed by staff and faculty members of the programs. CADE team members also visited the program on site at SIUC in February 2010. During the visit, team members met with representatives of the program including with the program director, faculty, current students, program graduates and administrators.

The commission found the didactic program in dietetics had faculty with practical experience in their areas of expertise, with a majority being registered dietitians. The program offered students opportunities to participate in a community nutrition research grant and encouraged them to participate in volunteer activities while attending professional dietetic meetings.

The program’s curriculum offered courses that introduced students to the field of study and to the path of becoming a registered dietitian, the commission found, as well as offering individualized support for dietetic internship application process.

The main strength of the program, commissioners said, was “the people,” meaning the faculty who demonstrated sincere interest in the success of each student and who made themselves available to advise and mentor students.

Sara Long Roth, director of the didactic program in dietetics, said she was extremely pleased with CADE’s review of the program. Becoming a registered dietitian is a three-step process, of which her program is the first. For students who want to work in this field, becoming a registered dietitian through an accredited program is extremely important.

“There isn’t much of a job market for nutrition majors without the registered dietitian credential, so that’s the importance to students,” she said. “The job market for registered dietitians is good and growing.”

The dietetic internship program, which is combined with a Master of Science degree, is based in the Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition. The two-year program, established in 1989, includes coursework, thesis and a period of supervised practice. Students who complete the program earn a Master of Science degree and receive a statement verifying their eligibility to take the exam to become a registered dietitian.

The program, which has more than a dozen students participating, was last accredited in 1998.

Dawn Null, director of the program, said she was extremely pleased with the positive review it received from CADE.

“Although we've known for years that we have an exceptional program, it's nice to see our accrediting body recognize it as well,” Null said. “This is not only a positivereflection of SIUC, but it's also a reflection of our preceptors, who are extremely dedicated and instrumental ineducating and mentoring our students.”

CADE team members credited Null, saying she “ is respected and has established a collegial reputation with interns, faculty, preceptors,” and others. Interns, they said, expressed great enthusiasm for practice facilities and discussed the advantages of working with sites in advance as a volunteer or in graduate assistantships.

Team members also noted that all former interns are now working professionally in positions involving management, clinical nutrition management and food service management and that they credit their experiences in the internship as preparing them for those positions.

Interns also praised networking opportunities in the program, as wells as the availability of faculty and preceptors for guidance.