Dietetic Career Spotlight on Stefanie Dove, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, School Nutrition Services
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on SEPTEMBER 11, 2017
Stefanie Dove, RDN, started her career in the fashion industry then switched it up to become a dietitian. Now, she is living her dream job and has found her passion with a purpose as the marketing and communications coordinator for the public school system. Read on to learn more how you can use your past job experiences to enhance your current dietetic job and make it spectacular. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
I am all about finding a passion with a purpose. I was volunteering at the Harlem Food Pantry while still working in fashion and stunned by how many families had no idea where apples grew let alone had ever tried them. This made me want to pursue a career where I could make a difference in the lives of others while also helping promote healthy eating. I realized that I took for granted growing up on a farm in rural Virginia prior to moving to NYC for college where I was exposed to a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis not just from an eating perspective, but also from a true farm to table concept.
Your Job Title?
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Company you are with now?
Department of School Nutrition Services, Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia
– Pinterest: @StefanieDove
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
I recently moved to the Northern Virginia area after living in NYC for over 12 years. I moved there for fashion school and actually worked in the fashion industry until I decided to switch careers and go back to school for nutrition 5 years ago. I am the marketing and communications coordinator for a large school district in Virginia just outside of DC. I work in the school nutrition department and spend much of my day working with students in the classroom and garden on nutrition education projects, chatting with kids in the cafeteria, taking photos of the meals we serve and blog and tweet about it. I was able to transform our program into a brand that is recognized by our community as well as districts and organizations across the country. This allows me to embrace my creativity and love of all things digital marketing. I always joke and say that I am truly living the RD dream haha!
The beauty of my position is that no two days are ever alike and since I am the first person in this role, I have been able to develop this role and my responsibilities to be those of interest to me. I am fortunate to be able to speak to fellow dietitians and school nutrition professionals locally and nationally on my position, school nutrition programs, and opportunities for dietitians in school nutrition. This has allowed me to help colleagues see that school nutrition is far more than just a “lunch lady” and that it is a unique area of practice that is both demanding and rewarding. I love being able to go home knowing that because of the event I organized, a child tried a strawberry for the first time and when they grow up, will remember that experience during the taste party in the cafeteria.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
To this day, I am still in awe as to how I fell into this position. It started from not getting into my top choice for a Dietetic Internship and enrolling in a distance program where I moved back to my hometown for some of my rotations. There, I had a preceptor in school nutrition where my large project was to plan and organize a week of events to celebration National School Breakfast Week. I had so much fun working with students, conducting taste tests, and going into the classroom to work with students on educations that it made me take a second look at school nutrition. The day I took my RD exam, my former preceptor called to tell me about this position that was going to be posted and told me that I would be crazy not to apply because it was as though my now Director, had crafted this position just for me. I took her advice, applied and two years later, I am still here and loving it!
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I have been comfortable communicating since I was a child. My sister and I would carry around our cassette players with built-in mics and record daily news shows featuring our Barbies and stuffed animals. The comfort level that I have communicating in an effective fashion is something that I was born with and continue to enhance on a regular basis. Communication skills are essential whether you pursue a position in clinical, public health or in a marketing role such as mine. The public relies on dietitians to be able to effectively communicate and break down the intense research that is released so that they can understand what it really means without relying on unreliable sources.
A skill that I have learned and am still working to improve upon is to become an active listener. I always told myself that I was a great listener, but realized that I was never fully listening and instead would spend some of the time crafting what I was going to say in response. I have also started to follow the concept of not feeling the need to respond to every statement as a way of being heard. I now ask myself “would this response have an impact on this conversation?” If I can answer that with “no,” I refrain from commenting. This has also been helpful with becoming an active listener.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
I think the people you spend the most time with influence you the most, so being mindful of those around you will ultimately impact you whether it is to start your own business, write your first book, or even building your own website. The field of nutrition is so diverse that the possibilities are endless, so I try to keep myself around those who have the “reach for the stars” motto. By surrounding yourself with influential people to help you make the right decisions in life will allow you to be fulfilled with where you are in life as well. I believe that every person you allow into your life can influence you in some way even if you do not realize it at that specific moment.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what
would it be?
Time for myself. I believe that like most, I tend to overcommit myself and as a result, lack “me” time that is truly needed. I am passionate about so many areas of nutrition that I try to keep my hands in all aspects as a way to help keep me updated on the field, but it also helps me stay motivated. It has taken me two years, but I now understand that it is better for me to commit to a handful of organizations or projects so that I can truly devote myself and my time to those and rotate in and out to keep myself energized.