The newest accredited degree program at Bastyr University California offers something old and something new. The Master of Science in Nutrition for Wellness builds on the success of Bastyr’s current nutrition programs, which are among the University’s most popular. The new program adds a focus on teaching nutrition to groups in a variety of settings and media.
“We wanted to come at nutrition in a new way,” says Boutin. “It’s about training people at a graduate level to understand the science behind nutrition. That prepares them to share about whole foods in a way that has integrity and accuracy.”
Graduates of the new program will be qualified to lead the wellness programs that have risen in popularity at workplaces, health care organizations, schools and senior centers. Graduates might develop nutrition programs for grocery store chains, produce cooking demonstrations or lead grant-funded public health projects. Or they might become entrepreneurs, using video, writing, consulting or other methods to bring nutrition information to others.
The common thread will be an ability to translate ever-changing scientific research into accessible information that can change peoples' lives.
“We’re hoping to attract the same kind of passionate people who come to our Washington nutrition programs,” Boutin says. “People who really want to work with groups and become comfortable with media and publicity.”
The nutrition for wellness program, which begins in California in fall 2014, rests on the whole-food philosophy that guides all of the University’s nutrition education, emphasizing eating a broad variety of foods in their least-processed forms. The program focuses on food for disease prevention, motivating behavior change and developing nutrition programs.
Like Bastyr’s other nutrition programs, the nutrition for wellness program includes a strong foundation of science. Studying physiology lets students understand how the body metabolizes food. Studying biochemistry lets them understand what food is made of and how it breaks down in the body. That foundation lets students remain lifelong learners, says Boutin.
“Each year in orientation I tell students that when you get a master’s degree in nutrition, you’re not just learning nutrition — you’re learning how to learn about nutrition,” she says. “The field evolves so quickly that you need to have a scientific background. Then when 30 new papers come out, you can assess the good science from the rest.”
A Growing Campus
The two-year program takes place at the University’s San Diego campus. It will be the second degree program at the campus, joining the Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine program. The campus also hosts the Simkin Center for Allied Birth Professions, which offers training for doulas and other birth educators.
Because of stronger-than-expected enrollment, Bastyr University California nearly doubled the size of its campus by expanding into a second building in 2013. The renovation includes a spacious and modern whole-food teaching kitchen for cooking classes.
Learn more about the campus (and the nearby beaches).
Nutrition for wellness students will take one class online each quarter, learning from a nutrition faculty member at Bastyr’s Kenmore campus. Second-year students will complete capstone projects that model the kinds of programs that they might develop in their careers — such as a workplace wellness program, cooking demonstration series or video series.
Students in the new program will be preparing for a changing career landscape, with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) placing an increased emphasis on preventive health. At the same time, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics predicts a potential shortfall of 18,000 dietetic professionals by 2020. All of this adds up to an increasing demand for qualified nutrition educators. While nutrition for wellness graduates won’t be eligible to work one-on-one with clients as registered dietitians, they will find growing opportunities to teach nutrition education in many settings.
"We launched the nutrition for wellness program because it prepares students to work at a key intersection," says Timothy C. Callahan, PhD, senior vice president and provost of Bastyr University. "Health care trends are increasingly moving toward preventive wellness, especially through nutrition. And Bastyr's strength has always been the prevention-oriented focus of natural health. Graduates of this program will have a lot to offer."
The nutrition for wellness program doesn’t have any graduates yet, but other Bastyr nutrition alumni provide examples of the types of work that the new program prepares students to do. For example:
- Marcy Dorsey, MSN (’11), RD, leads corporate wellness fairs at Microsoft, helping workers develop personal health goals.
- Valerie Segrest, BS (’09), helped Washington state’s Muckleshoot tribe reconnect with traditional foods, teaching tribal cooks and leading cooking demonstrations.
- Jeff Johnson, MS, BS ('97), spent years at Kashi promoting cereal, granola bars and other lightly processed foods.
- Bastyr core faculty member Kelly Morrow, MS (’99), RD, CD, frequently appears on TV and in print media to provide a scientific perspective on nutritional questions (such as “What’s really in a chicken nugget?”).
"There's no shortage of need for helping people connect with healthy food," says Boutin. "It's challenging, rewarding work."