Jennie Xiong, senior at College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University was recently awarded the MAND Student Member of the Year Award for 2017. After finishing her degree, Jennie will be starting the St. Cloud Hospital Dietetic Internship in the fall in pursuit of becoming a Registered Dietitian. Here’s what she has to say on favorite activities, the best part of being an undergraduate dietetic student and her advice for students thinking about a career in dietetics.
What do you like to do for fun?
During my downtime, I love to read. With such a busy schedule it’s rare for me to have time for
leisure reading. Reading definitely helps keep my life a little less chaotic. Some of my favorite
books include Gone Girl and Game of Thrones. I highly recommend those books to anyone who
is looking for a good read! In addition, I enjoy painting. I am not Monet or Van Gough by any
means, but painting definitely allows me to express myself. Lastly, I love to cook and eat. My
mother has taught me from a very early age how to cook from the heart. She has shown me
how to properly prepare chicken curry using coconut milk and curry paste. She has also shown
me how to elegantly roll eggrolls and deep fry them until golden brown. Although I love
cooking, my favorite part was always tasting the food once it was cooked. Food is such an
important part of everyday life and I admire my mother for passing her cooking onto me as I
will to my children one day.
What has been the most exciting part of your college career ?
The most exciting part of my college career has been my undergraduate research focusing on
the food safety knowledge and practices of the college students on my campus. It has truly
been one of the best learning experiences I’ve had throughout my entire college career. I’ve
always been the reader when it came to research but to finally be the researcher has allowed
me to improve many of my skills and gain incredible experience. The most exciting part of my
research was getting the opportunity to conduct kitchen inspections where I was able to swab
kitchen surfaces and view the bacteria on petrifilms. It feels really amazing to see how capable
you are once you reach the end of the journey. I am stunned every time I look back at the
obstacles I’ve been able to overcome and all the work I’ve produced. Research is truly a life
changing experience and I highly recommend all dietetic undergraduates to cease the
opportunity if possible.
What interested you in a career in dietetics?
My interest in dietetics stems from my Hmong identity. Many of the Hmong immigrated to the
United States in the late 1960’s during the Vietnam War. The Hmong, like many other groups of
immigrants, had to accustom their ethnic diets to the American diet. Growing up, I’ve noticed
many individuals in the Hmong community experiencing health issues, such as obesity,
diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, which I believe is due to lack of nutrition education and
inadequate diets. My goal is to learn and apply my nutrition knowledge obtained from my
undergraduate and dietetic internship to my Hmong community. I believe my efforts will
educate my community on the importance of nutrition and bring forth changes.
What’s next after graduation?
Literally one day after graduation, I will be jumping onto a plane and flying to Hawaii to swim
with sharks in Haleiwa. I don’t travel much, so this will definitely be a nice break! In the fall, I
will be starting my dietetic internship with St. Cloud Hospital, which I am very excited for. Once
the dietetic internship is completed and I have passed my RD exam, I plan to either work as a
clinical dietician in a hospital setting of some sort or continue my education towards my
master’s in pediatrics nutrition.
If you could give incoming freshman who are thinking of going into dietetics one piece of
advice, what would it be?
My one piece of advice would be to get involved as much as possible and don’t be afraid to try
new things. A big part about being successful is knowing how to effectively network and the
only way to do that is getting involved and putting yourself out there. If you want to volunteer
with Second Harvest Heartland, do it. If you want to run for president for the nutrition club, do
it. If you want to do research, do it! There were a couple times during my college career where I
passed up opportunities because I wasn’t sure if they was right for me. I then realized that if I
wasn’t so afraid, I would’ve had the opportunity to meet new people and gain valuable
experiences. All I have to say is, never pass up a good opportunity!