GDI Bootcamp

It’s official. My experience as a graduate dietetic intern and a graduate teaching assistant is officially in full swing! Let me step back for a moment and explain what exactly that means and why I am here in at WVU. In order to become a registered dietitian one must complete an accredited dietetic internship. The accredited dietetic internships come in a variety of formats. The main requirement is that interns must complete, at least, 1,200 hours of supervised practice rotations with registered dietitians in the areas of clinical, community, and food service. Internship programs may be combined with a Master’s degree, or any number of graduate courses, or just rotations. The application for an internship is done through a matching system, which means that each applicant will receive either one match or no matches at all, no matter how many programs one applies to. Internships are extremely competitive! Only 50% of applicants who apply receive an appointment to a dietetic internship! I was lucky enough to receive my first choice internship with West Virginia University. I chose this program because it allowed me to further my education with a master’s degree by combining it with the internship amongst many other reasons including the program’s quality, the rotations offered, the well-rounded emphasis, location, cost, etc.

The entire internship experience started with a two-week boot camp orientation. It is a fairly new concept to this program and has really proven beneficial. I am one out of a class of six interns this year and have been lucky enough to get to know them, as well as the second year interns extensively the past two weeks. Boot camp is designed to introduce us to WVU, the department, the division, and most of all, our program specifically. Boot camp was held over the course of the two-weeks prior to the beginning of the fall semester, which was August 6th – August 17th. Here is a brief overview of my experience at boot camp including some of the interesting facts I learned along the way.

Week One!

Day 1: August 6th, 2012

The first day was spent getting to know the other first-year interns and Dr. Melissa Olfert, the program director. We also took time going over the logistics of the program and important details that we needed to know. Today we were directed to think over a few very important decisions:

  • Choose between thesis and non-thesis (problem statement)
  • Who we wanted to be our advisor
  • Who we wanted to serve on our committee
  • What courses we wanted to take
  • What area we wanted to focus our research towards

Day 2: August 7th, 2012

On the second day we had a chance to meet with the second-year interns. They each shared their own “pearls of wisdom” and talked about their experiences. This really helped us answer the questions we had and help us get more of an idea of what to expect the next two years. We also took the Jung Typology personality test and were separated into groups according to our results. Interestingly enough, we were all fairly similar! I guess that just proves that it takes a certain type of person to become a dietitian. The Jung Typology test is based on 4 main characteristic trait options:

  • Extraverted vs. Introverted
  • Sensing vs. Intuition
  • Thinking vs. Feeling
  • Judging vs. Perceiving

With the combination of 4 letters labeling a personality type, there are a total of 16 different personality types that can be identified using this method. My scores came out to be ENTJ, aka the Executive, which stands for extraverted, intuitive, thinking and judging. Find out what type of personality you have here! 

We finished up the day by going on a tour of the campus and set up our Mountaineer Cards and Pay Roll. We learned about social media from a guest lecture from Mary Rodavich, a second year intern. This presentation was extremely informative and helped us navigate through the Internet world and taught us how to set up our blog, ePortfolio, LinkedIn, and others.

First and Second Year Interns
Top Row (left to right): Kaitlin Mock, Emily Todhunter, Erin Smith, Jessie Popelka
Bottom Row (left to right): Remi Famodu, Shannon Ackerman, Mary Risch, Wendy Thompson, Mary Rodavich, Roanna Martin

Meet the Interns:

1st Year Interns – Class of 2014

Shannon Ackerman

  • Hometown: Morgantown, WV
  • Undergrad: Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Remi Famodu

  • Hometown: Bloomington, MN
  • Undergrad: Ohio University

Jessie Popelka

  • Hometown: Lincoln, NE
  • Undergrad: University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Mary Risch

  • Hometown: Baton Rouge, LA
  • Undergrad: Nicholls State University

Erin Smith

  • Hometown: Union, WV
  • Undergrad: West Virginia University

Wendy Thompson

  • Hometown: Grand Junction, CO
  • Undergrad: University of Northern Colorado

2nd Year Interns – Class of 2013

Leah Gecheo (Doctoral Student)

  • Hometown: Kenya, Africa
  • Master’s: West Virginia University

Roanna Martin

  • Hometown: Mount Joy, PA
  • Undergrad: Messiah College

Kaitlin Mock

  • Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Undergrad: West Virginia University

Mary Rodavich

  • Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Undergrad: Pennsylvania State University

Emily Todhunter

  • Hometown: Grand Forks, ND
  • Undergrad: University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Day 3: August 8th, 2012

Today, we met the new Dean of the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, Dr. Dan Robision, and the Division Chair, Dr. Matt Wilson. It was so interesting to hear from these two and learn about their backgrounds. They also took time to explain this history of West Virginia University and it’s title as a “land-grant university.”

Dr. Dan Robison (left-side), The Dean of Davis College & Dr. Matt Wilson (right-side), The Chair of the ANS Division Presenting at Boot Camp for the GDI Interns

So, what exactly is a land grant university?

In 1862 (the same year as the Emancipation Proclamation and the Homestead Act) the government, with the help of Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law. The Morrill Act supplied each state thousands of acres of land that could either be used to house the university or to make money in order to build an institution elsewhere in the state. The following year, in 1863, West Virginia officially became a state and by 1876 they had officially opened their own land grant university – Agricultural College of West Virginia, know known as West Virginia University. Today, there are over one hundred land-grant schools and they are located in every single state and US Territory!

This decision was based on the need for accessibility to higher education for the working class. There was an increased demand for practical education regarding agricultural, mechanics, and military tactics to supplement the sophisticated universities that existed for the affluent populations. The working class needed access to more education in order to develop the land and infrastructure necessary to maximize the use of our nation. The Morrill Act can be considered, in some ways, one of the most transformative events that arose from the Industrial Revolution.

As a land-grant university, institutions are required to have a mission statement that involves education, research, and extension (community outreach). Most land-grant universities began as “agricultural institutions,” which is true for WVU, and in fact Davis College of Agriculture is the oldest college at WVU. It is very cool to say, that “I am apart of Davis College” knowing that it has been around for over 136 years – now that’s a lot of history! 2012 also happens to mark the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act. West Virginia University began with only six students and is now home to approximately 35,000 students, 14 colleges, and over 193 different degree programs.

Woodburn Hall was originally build in 1874 – this is how it looked it 1890.

WVU Downtown Campus as it Looks Today


After hearing from the Dean and the Division Chair we were lucky enough to hear from Roanna Martin (a second year intern) regarding the topic of local foods, food systems, farmers markets, and various programs including, Grow Your Own, Farm2Table, and Know Your Famer Know Your Food. Roanna Martin has an extensive background in farming because her family has been farming same land for over 15 generations! Take a look at her blog here!

One interesting thing I learned about was pepperoni rolls. Since moving to West Virginia I had seen signs and outside stands for pepperoni rolls all over and repeatedly been told to try one. Well, I finally got the chance and the best part was that they were even homemade – and they were fantastic! One of the best things about moving and traveling around is seeing all the wonderful regional foods that are out there! Click on the picture for a link to a healthier pepperoni roll recipe!

The Classic West Virginia Pepperoni Roll

Day 4: August 9th, 2012

Today was we heard from Emily Todhunter and Dr. Liz Quintana regarding diabetes, cardiovascular disease and the Ornish program.

Day 5: August 10th, 2012

Today was a fairly easy day that was spent on finalizing our schedules, working through classes, and creating and assembling the bulletin boards according to the topics that we chose. Emily Todhunter and I decided to create a board that showcased the interns and bootcamp. We chose to do a map tracing the interns from their hometown to WVU in Morgantown, WV.

Bulletin Board Created By Emily Todhunter and Wendy Thompson

The end of the day was spent relaxing at Cheat Lake with the other first and second year interns, Dr. Olfert, her husband and their daughter. We enjoyed swimming, tubing, and of course, snack time! It was great to be able to see other areas of Morgantown and all the outdoor activities it has to offer.

Cheat Lake

Week 2: August 13th – August 17th

Throughout the week we attended the Graduate Teaching Assistantship Orientation for all GTA’s at WVU as well as a Graduate Student Orientation for all graduate students just within the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences. We also attended presentations on sports nutrition, childhood obesity, associations and meetings regarding nutrition, and learned how to use the library resources through WVU.

Additional Pictures From Boot Camp

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