Professional Goals

Stephanie BirdMy desire to work in the development and marketing of fresh and high quality foods stems from the experience I had making my first pot of French onion soup with a friend’s father when I was 18. I had never held a chef’s knife in my hand, never properly chopped up an onion, and was amazed to learn they really did make you cry just like in cartoons when you sliced through their many layers of skin. When he handed me the whole bag, I thought he had to be crazy, but I got a lot of practice in that day, carefully peeling, slicing, and chopping. And then came the slow caramelization process on the stove in the heavy enameled stock pot on the burner, with the brown bubbling butter and constant stirring to ensure the onions achieved that perfect translucent quality before they started becoming golden and then finally, tipped with molasses. Then it was time for the stock, seasonings, and another hour of simmering to gently reduce the broth on the stove before it was done. Something so simple turned into something amazingly wonderful. How could I not fall in love? It seemed beautifully poetic that my soup started with tears had ended with something that basically changed my life.

Making simple food wonderful had well made its way into my blood when I started working in an office next to a restaurant with a great emphasis on the “Slow Foods” movement. My interactions with the owner of that restaurant gave me the opportunity to learn all about his business and be exposed to the products he used, many of which were locally sourced. Though my work experience to that point had been focused on marketing and writing, I jumped at the opportunity to complete this degree hoping to gain the skills and science background necessary to work in the food industry.

This is now my professional goal: I want to keep working in marketing and writing while allowing my love of food to continue to develop so I can keep growing my skills for product development, scientifically-based consumer testing, and other marketing strategies I’ve invested myself in learning over the last three years.

One of my favorite things to do with my free time is to make day trips to nearby cities to shop at specialty groceries such as Whole Foods, Wild Oats, The Nugget, as well as niche markets hoping to find new unusual, and otherwise elusive products promising to take my food enjoyment to new levels. I always make finding the neighboring markets and groceries a priority when traveling, as seeing what’s offered differently in other regions and countries fascinates and interests me even more than being a tourist. The basement market of a Monoprix in France or Aldi in Germany brings me nearly the same joy as visiting lac d’Annecy, Europe’s purest lake, or roaming through the oldest parts of Edinburgh.

While in school, I have had the opportunity to work with many of my instructors as well as with the Center for Nutrition and Activities Promotion, which is a campus‐affiliated non‐profit addressing community nutrition needs. I attended project planning meetings and worked with the center’s directors to help promote the organization and the services offered while supporting community organizations with similar goals. I enjoyed taking responsibility for various projects as well as working in a team with other interns and employees while we gathered data and organized information for research and other projects. I appreciated that people I worked with felt confident in my analytical skills, handing important projects to me to be reviewed for feedback. I respect the work this organization does very much.

Another project I enjoyed was working with my advisor and a graduate student in developing a grant proposal for a university grant through the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) to fund the time necessary in a local human simulation laboratory, traditionally used with nursing students.

Since the majority of dietetics option students continue in internships to become registered dietitians, where they’ll work hand in hand with nurses and other medical staff to aid patients, giving them access to training in a medical capacity is important. I needed to learn about the program quickly and feel I contributed beneficial grant‐writing skills to the project, and the grant was subsequently funded.

During my studies in dietetics, I started a blog to discuss some of the more challenging aspects of staying healthy, especially when one is challenged with food allergy or intolerance. I, myself, have been practicing a gluten‐free lifestyle since 2004, and have learned many ways to deal with the limitations coming out of having a selective diet, while finding many amazing and delicious alternatives to the standard American diet as a result. My conversations with people I have met through my blog and Facebook group, Gut Thinking, have helped me understand other people’s struggles and find inspiration in the creativity and perseverance they have shown.

I have worked in the field of creative marketing since 1999, while writing articles for publication since 1998. I have also produced technical writing and written several grant proposals, as well as worked in editing other people’s work. My web developing skills include HTML, CSS, and a basic understanding of XML and JavaScript. I am proficient in Photoshop and have had many photographs published in newspapers as well as a few magazines. Finally, I have layout skills developed using Quark Xpress, Adobe InDesign, and Microsoft Office.