Alumni Spotlight: Melanie Berdyck, MSAN

Melanie Berdyck, MSAN, UNE Online Alumna

Melanie Berdyck, MSAN, UNE Online Alumna

We interviewed Melanie Berdyk, MSAN, when she was a Student Ambassador in the Applied Nutrition program at CGPS in 2018. Here’s an update on what she’s up to, how she is using her MSAN in her career, and how her MSAN has helped her with career advancement.

Can you give us an overview of what you’ve been up to since graduation?

Since my graduation in August of 2018, I’ve continued to work in corporate nutrition – counseling patients, and working in a retail environment. I’ve found that I’ve been able to apply a lot of the knowledge and research from my graduate degree to a wide variety of real-life work situations.

I’m impressed with the amount of information I learned in my online classes that I’m able to use on a day-to-day basis. Actually, just yesterday I pulled up one of my class projects to refer to it regarding some diet marketing we were researching.

As another example, my capstone was on fad diets, and I would have never anticipated how useful that research would be to me in my job! Not only am I able to advise our retail clients, but I’ve also been able to help my colleagues get a good understanding of certain diets.

When the world changed in March due to COVID-19, I found my job changing as well. I’d never been much of a technical person, but doing my graduate school virtually helped prepare me for working virtually.

Before graduate school at UNE Online, I’d never created a website or presented online, but now I’m familiar with recording presentations and editing videos, and that has helped me in my current position, working from home. I’ve been able to edit some of our videos and spearhead a couple of other technical initiatives, which I wouldn’t have known how to do if I hadn’t gone through the program. It’s been really helpful to have those skills.

When you graduated, how did you envision your future?

The nutrition world is very competitive and I knew that having a master’s degree would give me an edge and help me meet that competition. Once I earned my master’s and conquered that phase, I felt that I was professionally at the level of my colleagues.

Since I graduated, I’ve been able to focus on my career goals and look at the direction I want my career to take. For example, in the last year, I became a certified diabetes educator.

I feel like I have a lot of opportunities, whether I stay where I am in the retail nutritional world, or move into diabetes education – I have options. Either way, my career has been very rewarding so far – and we’ll see where the next couple of years takes us!

How has earning your MSAN expanded your career options and enriched your life?

Having a master’s degree has opened up many opportunities for me in the field of nutrition.

I’ve been a dietitian for 13 years now, but I remember looking at job descriptions back when I first earned my bachelor’s and seeing some fantastic opportunities, but not having an advanced degree was limiting. It made me wonder if I was missing out on good opportunities.

Now that I have an advanced degree, I can check off a lot of those boxes and meet the qualifications that employers are looking for. Now if I see a job opportunity that looks interesting, I can go for it!

Having my MSAN makes me feel more empowered – I feel that I can really strive for some of those “reach” positions that maybe I wouldn’t have been considered for three or four years ago.

That makes me pretty proud of myself that I was able to achieve that.

What doors have opened for you since earning your master’s?

Through the MSAN, I was able to develop a very strong knowledge of nutrition in particular areas, and now in my job, I’ve become the go-to expert in those areas.

For example, for my wonderful capstone project, I highlighted low carbohydrate diets, intermittent fasting, and the ketogenic diet. Since then I’ve gotten so many questions about fad diets – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been able to go back, pull some of the articles that I used, and give them to people who had questions.

I’ve been able to educate my clients, my coworkers, and other teams in my company.

When you look back on the time that you spent earning your master’s in nutrition, what comes to mind?

I was able to apply my new knowledge right away. We covered a lot of really important topics that were very appropriate and applicable to what I was doing in my current job, and that was really helpful because, in the nutrition world, there are constantly new things to learn, and new studies to read.

It was also really helpful to expand my knowledge in some of the different areas of nutrition, that I hadn’t had a chance to work on yet, during the course of my career.

The seemingly unrelated topics we covered in school tend to come up in unexpected ways in my professional life. There have been so many times where I’ve been in meetings, thinking, ‘Wait a minute, I wrote a paper on that!’ – those papers actually turned out to be very helpful in the long term.

The discussion posts among my cohort were also valuable. Having to consider different opinions and varying viewpoints really made you think about things. I learned that, instead of seeing something in one view, I could see it from different angles.

I’ve found that having to consider other points of view has helped me in my practice too. After I explain something to a client, I try to listen and consider their viewpoint too.

Do you feel like the time that you invested in earning your degree was worth the long-term career benefits that you’ve experienced since graduation?

Yes, absolutely – my time in grad school was definitely time well spent. Two years sounded like a lot when I first started, but it seems like a little blip in time now.

It was totally worth it.

This is just a small subset of time. You get through it, and it goes pretty quickly – there’s never a dull moment.

Can you provide some examples of how you’ve applied the knowledge and skills that you learned during your online education at UNE?

Professionally, I’ve found it valuable to know how to really dig into research studies. Pulling data, being able to defend that data, and being able to correctly interpret that information and then passing along that knowledge, has been an extremely important skill set that I have used in my career.

Just the other day, I was looking at some peer-reviewed journal articles on diabetes and I recognized a few authors from some of the papers I’d written in school. It was like seeing old friends.

The technology aspect of the program also turned out to be really helpful for me. Never did I anticipate doing a lot of tech things, but when the opportunity arose being knowledgeable about certain types of online tools opened up a whole other area that I never thought I would be interested in or work in.

Any final thoughts about your time at UNE Online?

It was just a great experience. It was a lot of hard work but it really was wonderful.

And after I graduated, even though graduation was virtual this year, I did get to visit the UNE campus! It was nice to be able to go to school remotely, but also be able to set foot on campus.

It was a great experience, and I’d recommend it to everyone! It can be difficult, but you are going to be so proud of yourself when you’re finished.

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