Dietetic Career Spotlight on Jessica Lehmann, MS, RDN, Writer
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on JUNE 19, 2014
Meet teacher, writer, media dietitian, and supermom: Jessica Lehmann. I originally met Jessica at FNCE where we instantly bonded. She’s engaging, genuine, kind, and fun. Her smile brightens a room and her ability to connect with people has landed her jobs, success, and multiple opportunities. – Sarah
Sarah K: What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
Jessica Lehmann: I’m a foodie who prizes wellness above all. I teach nutrition to college students, I write a monthly food and nutrition column for Raising Arizona Kids Magazine and I appear regularly as a nutrition expert on the national television show The List.
Your Job Title?
Company you are with now?
Arizona State University, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion
Social Media and Website:
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
This semester I’m teaching five nutrition courses. Three of my courses are in-person and I teach three afternoons a week. I also teach two online courses.
I have three kids, ages 8, 4 ½, and 19 months old. Mornings involve the usual get-out-the-door rush to drop our oldest two off at school and preschool. Our wonderful nanny comes over at 9 am to take care of our toddler. Then I’m off to work to prepare for classes and teach.
Evenings are busy: homework, dinner, baths, stories…the typical warm and wonderful chaos of bedtime rituals with three kids. At night, I try to prepare for classes and write. But there are always dishes to do, piles of laundry to fold, lunches to be made…I will sometimes make a 9 pm run to the grocery store because that’s when I have time. I try to work out a couple of times at the gym, take a stroller walk (even use my rollerblades) and sneak in a quick workout in the gym at ASU.
Usually I think I have the best of both worlds and sometimes it feels like too much, but I have a strong support system: my husband (who also works full-time), in-laws who live nearby and help pick up kids and take them to sports practices, our nanny, plus the support of family and friends. I also have supportive colleagues at ASU, brilliant and hard-working grad students who help me grade assignments, and very understanding editors at Raising Arizona Kids.
I enjoy what I do, so that makes all the juggling worth it!
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
Well, it’s been a long path! My first degree was a B.A. in Sociology from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and I worked in marketing and Internet marketing for several years. I went back to school to study nutrition in my late 20s when I was living in New York City. I completed the Didactic Program in Dietetics at New York University, where I absolutely fell in love with all things related to nutrition and food. I spent time working and volunteering in a variety of roles: I was an assistant for Keri Glassman, who has a very successful private practice in Manhattan, helped out in food service and the eating disorders in-patient program at the New York Psychiatric Hospital, and worked with a community-supported agriculture program and a school-based health education program in Brooklyn. When my husband and I moved to Phoenix in 2005 for his career, I enrolled in graduate school at Arizona State University. We decided to start our family, so between 2006 and 2012, we had three sons and I was able to stay home with them. During that time, I also completed ASU’s M.S. Human Nutrition program, which included a really amazing dietetic internship, and passed the RD exam. My friend (and current ASU colleague) Simin Levinson, who I met at a local moms’ group, encouraged me to try out teaching at the community colleges. So I took on a class as an adjunct, and found that I enjoyed the challenge of teaching students. I appreciated that it provided flexibility with my schedule as a mom.
When my youngest was five months old, I got an exciting call from Tina Shepard at ASU offering me the opportunity to teach a class there. It was a lecture class with 100 students, which was about four times as many students as I had ever taught at once. It was intimidating at first, but then it quickly became fun.
Around the same time, I began making appearances on The List, thanks to my good friend Teresa Strasser, who is the main host of the show, who I met at my son’s preschool. I started a blog (www.jessicalehmann.com), which led to a connection with Karen Barr, the publisher of Raising Arizona Kids magazine. Karen offered me the opportunity to write regularly for the magazine. I knew nothing about being on camera or journalism, but I dove in head-first and tried to learn as much as possible. I sought out media coaching from Melissa Joy Dobbins of Sound Bites (www.soundbitesrd.com), and she really helped me with pre-shoot prep. I strongly recommend working with Melissa to anyone who is going to interact with the media.
When a full-time faculty position at ASU opened up last fall, I decided to go for it. I really enjoy the ASU community, the opportunity to improve my teaching skills, and the flexibility to write. I realized that I enjoy inspiring others to use nutrition as a tool to improve their quality of life, which is why I’m drawn to working in education and in media.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I like science, helping others learn, and writing. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to communicate more clearly and to be more patient. I continue to work on my writing, teaching, media and public speaking skills.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Visualize what you want out of life and don’t give up! Follow your intuition. Say yes to opportunities. Prioritize. Be kind and respectful to everyone at all times.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what
would it be?