Food Science and Human Nutrition alumni share their career experiences

By Elizabeth Holland

A degree from the Colorado State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition leads to some exciting careers. Read on for a sampling of how alumni are making a difference in various fields and activating their degrees to transform lives.

Mackenzie BurgessMackenzie Burgess graduated with her Bachelor of Science in nutrition and food science with a concentration in dietetics and nutrition management. Recently she completed her dietetic internship, passed her RD exam and is now credentialed as a registered dietitian nutritionist. Burgess started her own business called Cheerful Choices, a healthy food blog with original recipes fit for different dietary preferences. The business also provides a service called Coaching + Cooking, where customers can experience virtual hands-on cooking sessions and nutrition coaching that is personalized to their nutrition goals.

“As a dietitian, sometimes simple tips like the importance of colorful produce or the best way to cut a bell pepper seems like second nature to me,” Burgess said. “However, it may be something brand new to a client. I find it so rewarding to share these small learning opportunities and really have a positive impact on peoples’ health and cooking abilities.”

Joel Klemmer graduated with a Bachelor of Science in hospitality management. He is the Joel Klemmerproud owner of Paws & Claws Pet Food in Loveland, Colorado, a store that specializes in customizing healthy affordable food for pets. His time in the hospitality management program, particularly with the support of Bill Franz, assistant professor, was instrumental in providing him with the knowledge and advice he needed to move forward with his idea for a pet food company.

“I like my job because our service makes people happy when they see their pets healthier and more active,” Klemmer said.  “I genuinely enjoy going to work every day and butchering meats to make pet food. We work with quite a few fancier high quality meats that I’ve gained invaluable experience with!”

Jessie WilburnJessie Wilburn graduated with a master’s in food science and nutrition specializing in nutrition and continued on as a doctoral student in the Department of Health and Exercise Science for a brief period of time before shifting gears to pursue a career in medicine. The pursuit of medicine combines her passions for the puzzle of diagnostic medicine and her love of performing procedures.

“Emergency medicine provides a constant intellectual challenge, a touch of chaos, and a requirement for competency at multitasking, and necessity for teamwork and the development of interpersonal relationships,” Wilburn said.

Wilburn currently works as a Physician Assistant-C and is an Emergency Medicine Fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Jackson McCue graduated with his Bachelor of Science inJackson McCue nutrition and food science with a concentration in nutritional sciences and wanted to enter the workforce somewhere at the intersection of medicine and nutrition. He accepted a job at Virta Health, a company that helps people reduce the use of Type 2 Diabetes medications using personalized nutrition, medicine, and technology. In March of 2020, he started a new job at Vida Health, a company which uses a mental health-based approach to treat physical ailments.

“I feel very fortunate to have worked for both companies,” McCue said. “My advice for FSHN folks trying to get jobs they care about is to bypass applying through the front door whenever possible. I landed the job at Virta because I reached out directly to the founder of the company. If I had applied on the website, there was 0% chance of getting the job. The job at Vida came about because of a personal connection from Virta. When I worked as a hiring manager at Virta, it became obvious how important personal connections were. Alumni should not hesitate to reach out to anyone they can to get a personal connection at a company.”

Emma SicklesEmma Sickles graduated with her Bachelor of Science in nutrition and food science with a concentration in dietetics and nutrition management. She currently works as a registered dietitian, certified lactation counselor, and clinic supervisor at a local WIC Clinic in the Denver metro area. WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children which provides federal grants to states to fund nutrition programs.

“I was incredibly fortunate to attend CSU where I worked with teachers and staff who helped me develop personal and professional skills that prepared me to secure and complete my dietetic internship at Tri-County Health Department (TCHD),” said Sickles. “The TCHD internship has a focus on community nutrition and fully prepared me to begin working in WIC right after our graduation.”

She loves that every day in the clinic brings different challenges and learning opportunities. Sickles has a wide repertoire of knowledge and skills to aid families and women who need help with nutrition during and after pregnancy.

“The best part of my job is having the opportunity to serve WIC clients,” said Sickles. “We help WIC families thrive by providing nutrition and breastfeeding counseling, teaching them to use their WIC benefits, and offering referrals to community resources. Each family has unique needs and helping them find the tools they need to grow is incredibly rewarding.”

The Department of Food Sciences and Human Nutrition is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.