Tessa Lasswell

Tessa Lasswell

Major: Nutrition - Dietetics

Year of Graduation: 2015

Graduate School/Location: University of Minnesota School of Public Health's Coordinated Master’s Program, Minneapolis, MN, 2017

Current Position/Location: Community Program Specialist - University of Minnesota School of Public Health & Independent School District 197 School Dietitian Consultant 

Please give a brief description of your current position.
Community Program Specialist - A fancy way of saying co-research study coordinator. Recruit and retain participants for a grocery assistance study that's examining different ways of administering grocery benefits to families. 

School wellness consultant - Promote school wellness in the West St. Paul, Mendota Heights and Eagan school districts; specific projects include rolling out a new program to better accommodate student food allergies, evaluate new a la carte menu options, and support district and individual school wellness committees

What path did you follow to get to your current position?
My experiences in graduate school and the connections with mentors have led me to these two positions. Never underestimate the power of meaningful connections.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
When thinking about a career in nutrition and dietetics, consider pairing it with public health as you can think about nutrition issues in a broader lens. You can think about policy, environment and system-level changes versus simply focusing on individual choice.

What skills are important in your field?

  • Engagement of stakeholders 
  • Communication of evidence-based nutrition research to the public
  • Knowing where to find the latest scientific-based research as well as how to interpret  
  • Resource utilization  
  • Teamwork especially working with teams composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and different priorities 

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?
Community Program Specialist - After an intense week of recruiting participants for a wave (because the last week before the start of a wave is always the most hectic) and then taking a step back to remember that because of our efforts, families are now receiving grocery benefits and we are one step closer to answering our research question.

School Dietitian Consultant -  When teachers or school staff reach out to me with questions about nutrition or wellness with the intention of making their school a healthier place. This is especially gratifying as I often feel in the field of nutrition, that our work is not valued. But having schools reach out to me to seek out my expertise is a recognition that people are more and more prioritizing nutrition and seeing the connection wellness has on learning.

Most challenging?
Recognizing that although you think you have a brilliant idea to promote health, you first have to assess the needs of the community and determine where they're at, because without community support and buy-in, your "brilliant idea" isn't going to happen.

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career? 
For me, some of these experiences included studying abroad in South Africa, Alternative Break Experiences, choosing to do a research-based capstone project with a public health focus, serving as nutrition club president, and working as a nutrition TA.

If you would like to learn more about me or my career path, please don't hesitate to reach out with questions to [email protected].  

(October 2018)