Friday Night Lights: A Review of the 2011 Policy Student Internship Presentations

By Lisa D’Agrosa, RD

This year marked a changing of the tides for summer internship presentations at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. On November 4th, six select second-year policy students presented their internship experiences to fellow students and faculty. The presentations spanned topics from vitamin D research to crop growth and locations from India to Illinois.  There were three Food Policy and Applied Nutrition students; two Agriculture, Food and Environment students; and one Nutrition Communication student. Five breakout sessions, composed of presentations from additional students from each program, followed. Students could listen to one presentation about research and education, then walk down the hall to listen to another about experiences at an NGO, then change rooms to hear a third about government, amongst others.  Each was about five minutes with the option for the audience to ask one or two questions.  Following the breakout sessions, attendees and presenters were invited to the Jaharis cafeteria for drinks and appetizers.

In past years, students gathered for a large, more informal discussion of their experiences, followed by poster presentations.  I got the chance to sit down with Lori Ioannone, Assistant Director of Student Affairs and Student Life, to discuss some of the format changes this year, many of which were based on student feedback.  Additionally, both she and the faculty wanted to make sure the presentations were purposeful for the students.  Posters were often discarded afterwards, but a PowerPoint can be added to a professional portfolio. Links to all the power point presentations can be found here.   A team of students, department chairs, and administration worked hard to create the internship presentation event this year.

As a first-year student, I felt like I was on internship information overload for an evening.  Every presenter did a great job cramming a lot of valuable information into a very short amount of time. Experiences were shared and advice was given, but many details were seemingly omitted given the time constraints. So far, every second-year student I have talked to has been kind, patient, forthcoming, and happy to provide extra information, about industry contacts or payment. Hearing first hand about the day-to-day experiences of students was invaluable.

However, that’s just my opinion.  Based on survey results provided by Lori, most students gave positive feedback.  A majority of questions were answered with about 75% of students agreeing that the presentations were helpful and informative.  Initial critique questioned that the sessions were held on a Friday.  Of course, it is hard to find an “ideal” time in graduate school with the overloaded schedules of students and faculty.  Another response from students was that they would like to see the presentations earlier in the semester. Additionally, the breakout format made it hard to see certain presentations, because every room was on a slightly different schedule.  So one group may have been on speaker number four while another had already finished up with number five.  Because the presentations were quick and organized in specific time slots, there was little room for organic discussion, which is helpful for both first- and second-year students.

When I asked Lori if she was planning changes for next year, she said that she, along with Will Masters, Chair of the Department of Food and Nutrition Policy, and the other department chairs, are  hoping to make some improvements.  As with any inaugural event, there were certain things that worked and certain things that didn’t.  There has been talk of making the presentations required for first-year students and breaking them into multiple workshops where it would be easier to attend those you are interested in.  The goal continues to be to making the presentations valuable to both the audience and the students speaking.

Overall, the talented individuals I am surrounded by at Tufts never cease to amaze me.  Students contributed to amazing projects this summer and I’m sure will continue to do so in the future.  The internship presentations were a great testament to that.  I feel confident that Friedman will listen to student feedback surrounding the required internships for policy students and continue to improve the process.

 Do you have thoughts on the subject? Please leave a comment below. 

Lisa D’Agrosa is a first-year Nutrition Communications student and a Registered Dietitian.  She enjoys running, yoga and skiing in addition to cooking and baking. She hopes to help solve the obesity epidemic in the country by educating the public about healthy eating.  Read more @ http://www.simmerdownnutrition.com

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