Dietetic Career Spotlight on Sharon Beckwith, Faculty, Kinesiology and Nutritional Science Department, CSULA
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on MAY 28, 2018
Meet Sharon Beckwith, MS, Registered Eligible. She’ll soon be an RDN and has switched careers from a previous career as an elementary school teacher to becoming a dietitian. She’s teaching nutrition at California State University, Los Angeles, and will be starting a private practice. Read on to learn more how determination, drive, and passion can bring a new fulfilling career path into one’s life. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
Two events led me to the field of nutrition and dietetics. The first had to do with my daughter’s medical condition which sparked my interest in nutrition and dietetics. The second had to do with a life situation that took me down the path of becoming a registered dietitian.
(1) My daughter suffers from severe migraine headaches. I took her to numerous doctors and neurologists, who put her on medications that caused tremendous weight gain, and the medications didn’t even work. Then, fifteen years ago, we found that my daughter had food allergies to wheat and corn. Those food allergies, among other things, were triggering her migraines. Because she couldn’t eat wheat or corn any longer, I had to learn how to cook gluten-free and corn-free at a time when gluten-free products were not as readily available as they are today. Corn, of course, is in almost every processed food, and I had to find substitutions. That led me to my interest in nutrition. Something as “simple” as changing the diet can improve health for someone with a medical condition, such as migraine headaches.
(2) About 10 years ago, I found myself going through a divorce, unemployed, and needing to reinvent myself. It was during the Great Recession. No one was hiring a woman in her fifties with a Bachelor of Music degree, who was a newly retired elementary school teacher, and former business owner. A friend introduced me to an administrator of a local hospital who suggested I become a RDN. As soon as she said those words, everything clicked, and doors started opening.
Your Job Title?
Part Time Faculty, Kinesiology and Nutritional Science Department, California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA).
Company you are with now?
California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA)
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
As a faculty member, I am responsible for preparing and presenting two lectures covering the material in the course text each week. For the labs, I set up the lab, making sure the lab materials are available to the students, and making sure the ingredients for the food experiments and activities are ready. As the lab is going, I walk around, helping to explain what is going on in the experiment, such as Maillard reaction or oxidative enzymatic browning. Then I do all the things that instructors do: give assignments, give exams, and grade the students’ work. I also write letters of recommendation for students and attend department meetings. I greatly enjoy interacting with my students and other faculty.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
In my first year as a student at CSULA, the professor who taught the experimental foods course asked if I would be her graduate assistant during the summer. I did that, along with being a GA for another professor during the school year. Then I was asked to be a teaching associate. I taught a general nutrition course for non-majors, another nutritional lab, and then taught the foundation of foods labs in the summer. After I completed the CDP program, and did my internship, and after I graduated with my MS degree, I was asked to be a part time faculty for the Kinesiology and Nutritional Science department. I have taught the foundations of food course, the experimental foods course, and a class on writing for kinesiology in the kinesiology department.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I was born with many talents and skills. I sing, am a natural writer, fairly well organized, and a natural teacher. In my previous career, I taught in elementary school for many years. I love to teach, so teaching at CSULA is a good fit. I care about others. I am conscientious. I am responsible. I am able to easily to talk to others, enjoy getting to know people, and especially helping others be the best they can be. I have learned counseling and motivational skills to help others make lifestyle changes.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Follow your heart. Do what you enjoy doing, and what you are good at doing. When you do, the “universe” will come around and meet you where you are. There is nothing better than being in a place where you are needed and appreciated. You will help many people and make a difference. Don’t be afraid to move forward; just keep putting one foot in front of the other. The journey of life goes on. It uncovers new experiences, and teaches new things. It keeps life interesting. What you do along the journey gives your life meaning, so keep going! We will always be “here” on life’s journey. Make the best of it.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what
would it be?
Students who thank me for teaching them is more fulfilling than a paycheck. When you care about your students—or clients—it will show, and they will be appreciative. To know you’ve helped another change their life makes it all worthwhile. My students are going to help many people in their careers. I’ve had the privilege of being a part of reaching many lives through the future successes of my students. That’s very rewarding.
When I pass the RD exam, I would like to start a private practice to help people with food allergies, and weight management. If possible, I want to continue teaching in some capacity. But who knows? This journey I’ve been on has taken me to places I never thought I’d go. This is a journey that will continue as long as I can put one foot in front of the other, and I look forward to every step.