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Online Graduate Found Inspiration at NC State to Expand the Reach of Her Work

Graduate student and Clinical Study Manager Lauren Nolley has been inspired by her studies at NC State to help alleviate the effects of food insecurity. She is looking forward to the future as she prepares to graduate with a Master of Nutrition, completed online at NC State.

Nolley decided to pursue her degree after she worked as a data collector for an infant toddler and obesity clinical trial. The experience allowed her to observe meal habits in day care centers, which sparked her interest in nutrition. 

“This experience really opened my eyes to not only the field, but the depth of the field of nutrition. Shortly after, I found myself always curious about new nutrition topics such as the microbiome and nutrigenomics. I thought the best way to incorporate the field of clinical research and nutrition would be to pursue an advanced degree,” Nolley said.

NC State’s comprehensive nutrition program and flexible distance education options drew Nolley in. She was attracted to NC State’s ability to provide her with an understanding of all elements of nutrition while she continued to work and complete research. Her experience within the program did not disappoint.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my classes, each of them providing me with knowledge that I will use for years to come,” she said. “I like how close the department is as well. It makes communication to professors and other students much easier.”

Though balancing her work with schoolwork was not easy, she set aside specific times to work on assignments, and she believes it was all worth it. As a clinical study manager for a clinical research organization in Washington, D.C., Nolley considers her work at NC State to be helpful and applicable to her career.

“The clinical trials that I work with are often for rare diseases that require very complicated treatments. My hope is to incorporate more nutrition-related objectives within these studies in hopes to provide some kind of alleviation with slight lifestyle changes,” she said. “I also see this degree helping me further understand nutraceuticals and incorporate them into trials as well.” 

Nolley made sure to take advantage of her opportunities, participating in projects at NC State that would prepare her for her work. She dedicated a great deal of time to conducting research with faculty member Natalie Cooke to gain experience and knowledge of food insecurity.

“Working with Dr. Cooke has definitely opened my eyes to the plight of food insecurity not only in North Carolina but everywhere. It is a topic that is not often discussed but it is so prevalent, especially during times of COVID-19.”

Nolley has also recently worked as a co-author on a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning manuscript, which she hopes to publish soon. This experience allowed Nolley to achieve her goals of learning as much as she could outside of classes and having an opportunity to publish her work.

“My experience as a co-author was definitely eye-opening. I have never acted as a co-author on a manuscript so it was also a great learning experience. I was able to learn the peculiarities of SoTL and qualitative research. I previously had no idea about the amount of work that goes into creating a manuscript,” she said.

Nolley has been thankful for the faculty members she has worked with on these projects, and she believes they have inspired her to volunteer with more food insecurity related programs. 

When asked which faculty members were most inspiring to her, Nolley said, “I would definitely say Dr. Cooke and Dr. Goodell. Working with them over the summer, I was able to see how they balanced multiple priorities at the same time, which I could relate to. Also, their extensive knowledge of food insecurity has shaped my thoughts on the subject matter for the better.”

Nolley feels grateful for her experience in the graduate program at NC State as she nears graduation, and she encourages others to enroll, especially in an online and distance education program.

“My learning experience at NC State was great, and I recommend the Nutrition Program to those interested. There is something for everybody,” she said. “I would absolutely encourage others to take an online program because it allows you to get your degree on your own time. It is much more flexible, but just as rigorous as in-person classes.” 

For working students that are already in the program, Nolley encourages them to persevere.

“My advice would be to stay determined and disciplined. It is tempting to lose sight and focus of continuing education while you are working. I would also suggest taking courses that you have an interest in as it makes coursework more enjoyable.”

Congratulations to all of our NC State Online and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences graduates!

Are you interested in advancing your career with a master’s degree in nutrition from NC State Online? Visit the program page and online.ncsu.edu/programs for a full list of degree and certificate programs.

This post was originally published in DELTA News.