The Transition from Student to Employee: Catching up with Lindsay Peterson, MS, N’10

By Meghan Johnson

Lindsay Peterson is a 2010 Friedman graduate of the Nutrition Communication Program. She is now the Project Manager for The GREEN Project at the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Prevention at the Friedman School of Nutrition.

What are your favorite memories from your time as a Friedman student?

Hmm, I think one of my favorite NutCom memories involved our Potluck/Game Nights. It was just so fun to be able to spend time together outside of Jaharis; there’s nothing like a good game of Apples to Apples to help you get to know your classmates on a whole new level.

(Pause)

And I have to admit. I do miss those study sessions at Sackler; you know, where you’re working together on a group project for hours.

Any advice for new Friedman students?

I would tell them to take advantage of all that Friedman has to offer, right from your first semester. I feel like it’s easy to be caught up in coursework and readings, and not take on extra activities. Looking back, though, I’d say jump in and get involved from day one, because those two years fly by so quickly.

Now you’re an employee of the Friedman School! How does it feel to be on the other side?

It’s really been a wonderful transition. As a student, I was fortunate enough to work with Dr. Goldberg as a research assistant while the GREEN Project proposal was being written. I’ve been able to see the seed of an idea transform into a full-blown communications campaign, and it’s been a huge learning opportunity! I’m grateful I was able to transition into a full-time role on the project.

I’ve also really enjoyed working with the students who have been involved with the project. Friedman students are a remarkable bunch, and during the drives to our site visits, I just love hearing about the students’ backgrounds and ambitions.

Tell me about this project you’re managing at the John Hancock Center: The GREEN Project.

The GREEN Project Lunch Box Study involves developing, implementing, and evaluating a school-based communications campaign for 3rd and 4th graders and their families. The healthy eating campaign focuses specifically on improving the foods children bring from home to school.

So it is a school-based communications campaign.  What does this mean?

We’ve done a great deal of research with parents, principals, teachers, and children to identify some of the obstacles to packing a healthy lunch and to find innovative ways to communicate with students and parents. We wanted to develop a message and creative strategy that resonates with both kids and their parents. The team has worked really hard to find a fresh way of communicating about nutrition; one that goes beyond the “eat your fruits and vegetables” message that kids have already heard so many times.

How can Friedman students get involved with The GREEN Project?

Friedman students were involved with the pilot study last spring and are now helping with data collectors for base-line data collection for the main study.  We’ve trained our data collectors for the fall but we will be conducting another training in the spring when we collect the follow up measurements. I would definitely love to hear from any Friedman students who are interested in being involved in data collection in the spring. There will be some other opportunities for student involvement if anyone is interested in data input, and we’ll also be doing some food demonstrations at the schools.

I can attest to the fact that you’re very good at your job. What prior experiences have helped you prepare for the work you’re doing now?

Before attending Friedman, I was a middle school teacher. That experience has helped me tremendously in finding creative ways of communicating with my students and I think it’s been a great lens through which to view The GREEN Project and to make the material resonate with students.   Having been a teacher, I also understand all of the demands on the teachers that we’re working with; this experience has helped us tweak this campaign to fit more seamlessly into the school day. These teachers also just have so many great ideas. We have so much that we’re going to learn from them as we watch this campaign come to life.

Working as a teacher also somewhat slanted my experience at Friedman towards nutrition education, so this project was a good fit for me. It was great getting back into “teacher mode” to write The GREEN Project curriculum.

Any insights into what the future holds for Lindsay Peterson when The GREEN project winds up?

We have two years left of the project, but I hope that the success of the campaign can bring additional work in this area, or in a dissemination study. The GREEN Project has definitely solidified my desire to continue working in the field of nutrition education. It is something I’m truly passionate about.

*This interview was condensed and edited.

Meghan is a second-year dual Master’s student studying Food Policy, Nutrition and Public Health. She is passionate about preventing chronic disease through behavioral, policy, and communications interventions or campaigns.

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