Dietetic Career Spotlight on Kristine Duncan, MS, RDN, CDE, Recipe Tester
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on AUGUST 11, 2014
Combining her passion for cooking and her passion for analysis and numbers, Kristine Duncan develops, tastes, and tests recipes for a living. And she gets paid, too! Talk about the love of both worlds! Read on to learn about Kristine’s career path.- Sarah
Sarah Koszyk, MA, RD: What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
Kristine Duncan, MS, RDN, CDE: I loved cooking and I loved math, so it seemed too good to be true that there was a field of study that brought these two topics together. I took a basic nutrition class as a freshman in college and I was hooked. As I learned more, what’s kept me excited about this field is the power we have to affect health so dramatically by simply making different decisions at the grocery store.
Your Job Title and Company you are with now:
Adjunct Faculty – Skagit Valley College
Program Developer and Educator – Wellness Wrx
A typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you:
It depends on which job needs attention that day. I might analyze some recipes for a local food company or test a recipe for my blog.
If I’m focusing on Wellness Wrx I’d most likely develop a PowerPoint presentation and/or handouts for an upcoming cooking demonstration. Or I might work the BMI “booth” at a health screening or meet some worksite wellness clients for health coaching.
Two mornings a week I’m in the classroom with my NUTR 101 students, which is usually followed by grading, responding to emails or managing the content for my online class.
I’m also trying my hand as a freelance writer, so I might be finding research for a new article or responding to feedback from an editor.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
I found out about my job at the community college through a friend who’d seen the listing in the newspaper. She mentioned they were looking for someone to teach NUTR 101. I applied and have been happily teaching online and on-ground classes since 1998.
I worked at the local hospital up until a few years ago, when the entire Community Education department was downsized. Happily, my entrepreneurial boss decided to start her own worksite wellness company, so my colleagues and I now work for her doing screenings, classes and health fairs for local businesses.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I’ve always enjoyed organizing and categorizing things and I like working with data and numbers. I also love cooking and eating, and talking about cooking and eating, so teaching about cooking and eating came naturally. I’ve learned to be a more skilled writer with practice (at least I hope so, anyway) and I’ve refined my teaching strategies over the years after seeing what works in the classroom and what doesn’t. In the past few years, I’ve been learning to communicate nutrition messages in non-traditional ways like blogging, using social media, and most recently, enhancing my food photography skills.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Know yourself. As early as you can, find out what you’re naturally interested in and naturally comfortable with, including fields of study, work environments, and work styles. This generally requires being employed in different positions or getting creative with volunteering or job shadowing. Ideally, you’d just be open to any and all new opportunities. Then, ask yourself if you prefer working independently or with a team? Do you like applying your skills to new situations or are you more comfortable with repeated, familiar tasks? Knowing what you don’t like is just as valuable as knowing what you do like.
Even in the field of nutrition, we’re not all cut out to be the clinical dietitian in the ICU, but luckily there are other very different, very interesting jobs to suit different individuals. So, I guess my last suggestion would be to do a little research and see what types of jobs are available in and around the topic you’re passionate about and see if something seems like a good fit.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?