Category Archives: Fieldwork Interviews

Fieldwork Interview: Michelle Brenseke


brooklyncollegephotoMichelle Brenseke is a 2nd year student from Long Island. What drew her to Hunter College’s DPD program is its emphasis on urban public health and the professors who teach, work in the field, and are able to illustrate lecture material with their own professional experience.

What are some of the academic and career experiences that lead you to pursue a graduate degree in Nutrition Science?

I have been interested in studying biology since I was 16, and while in undergrad I cycled through everything from veterinary science to bioengineering. After being appointed menu steward at a vegetarian co-op I lived in during my junior year, I would spend more time on my menus than I did on my homework. That summer, a family friend who was an R.D. offered to let me shadow her at the hospital she worked at. I took some nutrition courses my senior year and loved what I was learning about. All of the knowledge I gained from these experiences led me to pursue a graduate degree in nutrition and a career in dietetics.

What were you looking for in a fieldwork placement?

I had a little bit of volunteer/internship experience in community, food service, and clinical nutrition already, and wanted to see what private practice was like. I was also really inspired by Lorena Drago’s lecture she gave in community nutrition on cultural competency in healthcare and wanted to find an opportunity to learn more about these efforts in dietetics.

Where did you complete your fieldwork?

I completed my fieldwork with Constance Brown-Riggs, owner of CBR Nutrition Enterprises and a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Can you describe the types of projects you worked on?

Ms. Brown-Riggs is in the process of writing a food guide for people with diabetes to use when traveling to foreign countries or trying new cuisines. As her intern, I researched foods common in selected regions and conducted recipe analyses. I also observed counseling sessions, developed educational materials for patients, and helped educate patients using these materials.

What is one thing you’ve gained from this experience that you weren’t expecting when it started?

I knew that having a private practice is similar to running a business, but I had no idea the kind of juggling that goes into maintaining a successful dietetics practice; there are a lot of moving parts. Learning how dietitians participate in media was also really interesting.

Do you have any advice for students looking for a similar opportunity?

For anyone who has a specific kind of fieldwork experience in mind, whether it is a certain hospital or working with a specific dietitian, make sure you start the leg work at least 3 months before you want to start. Nothing ever goes according to plan so you have to be able to go with the flow. Also, preceptors and sites only have so many available spots for interns and you don’t want to be in a position where you’ll have to scramble last minute for any opportunity you can get.

As for getting fieldwork in private practice, be friendly and show you can bring something to the table. Entrepreneurs appreciate the help and in return, you can get well-rounded insight into what the life and work of a private practice dietitian is like.