Outstanding nutrition grad gives new meaning to ‘involvement’

Colorado State University food science and human nutrition major, Heather Nereson, is the epitome of dedication and commitment to leadership.Headshot of Heather Nereson in Oval

While serving as member, to vice president, to the current president of the Dean’s Leadership Council, and maintaining at 3.955 GPA, Nereson has shown outstanding growth as a student and leader. Upon graduating this May, she will continue her dietetic internship and master’s in clinical nutrition in Madison, Wisconsin.

Small town girl

Nereson grew up on a 700-acre farm in Hayden, a small rural town in northwest Colorado. You could say the choice to study nutrition came naturally from her early education on the importance of agriculture and “farm to table”.

Although nutrition seemed like a natural choice, she wasn’t sure where she could go with that degree. After a mentor gave her a tour of CSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, she knew that this would be a great fit for her.

“Coming from a high school graduating class of 25, beginning at CSU was a culture shock to say the least,” Nereson said.

But she accepted the fact that she would need to adjust because of the opportunities at CSU.

“I was drawn to CSU for the diversity of projects, how nutrition was taught from clinical, community, and research perspectives, and I saw opportunities at CSU that I hadn’t seen anywhere else. CSU has felt like home from that day on,” Nereson said.

Challenging herself

“I came to college having the goal of challenging myself to make an impact on my communities, while also holding myself to extremely high standards,” Nereson said. “With a perfect storm of expectations I placed on myself, I can only say I successfully met these goals through constant encouragement and opportunities from advisors and professors.”

During her years at CSU, Nereson learned how to modify recipes for health conditions, perform case studies for a variety of medical nutrition complications, gained an understanding of community nutrition by partnering with CSU Extension and creating a program from nutrition assessment to intervention. She also got the opportunity to dive into current primary research for her capstone presentation of Cinnamon and its effects on Insulin Resistance.

Nereson also gained great, applicable experience through her practicum at the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center. She had the opportunity to lead cooking classes for the community and grocery store tours for FSHN 150 students, create newsletter to be distributed to more than 1,000 readers, and shadow dietitians to learn about peoples’ health needs from endurance athletes to gallbladder surgery. Volunteering at the KRNC allowed Nereson to feel confident headed into her dietetic internship.

CSU Presidential Ambassadors on a stairway
CSU Presidential Ambassadors

Giving new meaning to staying involved

“I’ve had the honor to be a part of many organizations on campus that have diversified my knowledge of CSU from the department, college, and university levels,” Nereson explained.

From joining the CHHS Dean’s Leadership Council as a shy timid freshman, to now currently serving as the president, Nereson saw growth in herself and her love for leadership. DLC allowed her the opportunity to work in a team environment, interact with college donors, refine her professional skills, and manage groups.

“DLC is what caused the overwhelming size of CSU to become small, as I was able to connect with people who had similar goals and also wanted to challenge themselves to improve every single day. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about and serving the college. My involvement on DLC also provided a premier stepping-stone to become a Presidential Ambassador,” Nereson said.

Nereson was selected as one of 14 Presidential Ambassadors during her junior year. This responsibility includes engaging with university donors, faculty, and alumni to validate their philanthropic contributions and services to CSU.

“It’s so rewarding and humbling to create meaningful connections with a population that has made CSU what it is,” Nereson said. “Without our donors, the buildings we take classes in, research we take part in, friendships we build, and campus wide activities we enjoy, would not be possible. The very least I can do is personally say ‘thank you’ to those individuals.”

Nereson also got the opportunity to delve deeper into the nutrition department by working as a research assistant alongside Laura Bellows in the Health Behaviors Lab. The research focused on family and children eating patterns and farm to preschool initiatives showing Nereson that research can extend outside the clinical setting.

“Without my nutrition professors, Dean’s Leadership Council adviser, and Presidential Ambassador adviser, I would still feel lost and disconnected from CSU and my goals for the future,” Nereson said. “They have taught me about work ethic, professionalism, attention to detail, and numerous other life lessons that I will forever cherish.”

On top of the academic extracurricular activities Nereson was involved with, she was also a member of the CSU figure skating team all four years of school where the traveled throughout California and Colorado to compete.

Looking toward the future

Heather Nereson and Ben Lorden
Heather Nereson and fiancé Ben Lorden

This summer Nereson will be marrying her CSU sweetheart who graduated last spring, Ben Lorden, and moving to Madison, Wisconsin, where she will continue her education. She eventually would like to incorporate her passion for nutrition with her roots in agriculture to promote interdependence of the two sectors in her future endeavors.

“I’ve taken away lifelong friendships, a deep passion and commitment to CSU, thankfulness for the support I’ve received along the way, and an incredible education that will launch me to achieve my dreams,” Nereson said. “I’ll miss the community and high quality-learning environment that allows students to try new things, learn new skills, and take risks while still being in an environment that will pick you up when you fall. I will always cherish the kind and friendly environment CSU shows every single day.”

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