Dietetic Career Spotlight on Erica Nehrling Meador, University Dining Services
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on JANUARY 26, 2015
Meet Erica Nehrling Meador, MS, RDN, LDN, who’s job has over a hundred responsibilities, but she still manages to effectively organize, implement, and complete them all. Learn what it takes to be a productive and successful Administrative Dietitian for Dining Services. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
I was a chemistry major and was looking for a field of science that was more applied. I’ve always found nutrition fascinating because it is the combination of physiology, biochemistry, and food. I remember learning about nutrition and heart health in elementary school, and shadowed a state health inspector grading restaurants in Georgia for a middle school project. By the time I started undergrad, I had logged days’ worth of time looking at nutrition and ingredient labels, many of those over cereal and cartoons on Saturday mornings!
Your Job Title:
My formal title is Assistant Director and Dietitian of Dining Services. What does that mean? I’m the Administrative Dietitian for Dining Services.
Company you are with now:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
– Twitter: @EricaRDN
– LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/EricaRDN
A typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you:
This is always a hard question because my job entails literally over a hundred responsibilities. About 50% of my job is creative work and implementing those ideas. I create educational programs and collaborate with our team to develop content and marketing, and plan operations of nutrition events. I run our Allergy program which involves daily correspondence with a current or future student or student’s parent, a chef or dining hall manager asking questions, the disability office, or residential life office. I collaborate with the chefs to create new recipes or to make changes to current recipes to either make them healthier or more allergy-friendly. I am part of the senior management team in dining services which allows me to help with innovation, strategy, marketing, and communications. For example, I am working with the Executive chef of dining and our graphic designers on marketing for new smoothies we have created for our retail locations. I also am heavily involved in staff training and teach every staff member about allergies and intolerances.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
This was a job I wanted starting when I interned for dining services for two weeks during my dietetic internship. When the previous dietitian retired, I submitted my application immediately. It was half-day interview process involving an hour interview with the selection committee (about 10 people), a 30 minute presentation (I chose to discuss mindless eating and external versus internal eating cues–thanks, Dr. Wansink!), an open forum of interview questions with anyone from the department (about 30 people), and ending with an interview with the top three people in charge of dining services. I was certainly brain-dead by the end of the process! The lesson here is to work hard in your internship. My current job and my previous job (as a clinical dietitian) were both places I interned, and I am confident that my hard work during the dietetic internship helped me land both jobs.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I have a natural ability to build rapport with people and help others feel at ease when talking with me. I am also skilled at teaching and can explain concepts in a simple or complex manner. I have honed my teaching skills over the years with 10 years of experience teaching either large classes or one-on-one. I also completed the College of ACES Teaching College Course with ACES Academy of Teaching Excellence at University of Illinois. It is a program that professors and some graduate students can apply for to keep working on becoming better teachers. I think any opportunity to learn to teach is important to take advantage of as teaching is an integral part of a dietitian’s work, no matter what vein of dietetics one is in.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Keep an open mind. Take advantage of all opportunities. My first position was only for 50% time, but I worked hard and my position became 75% time after only a couple of months.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
To know every positive effect I’ve had on clients and students. There is no greater joy in life than knowing you’ve made a positive impact on another person. Plus, if I knew exactly what I did or said that was the key for clients and students, I could use my most effective strategies to hopefully maximize my positive impacts going forward!