Marie A. Whelen, MS RDN, LD
The Art Institute of Houston
Remain a lifelong learner and savvy consumer. Marie A. Whelen , Nutrition Instructor , The Art Institute of Houston
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
I started cooking at an early age. In elementary school, I entered contests in culinary demonstration, cooking, nutrition education, and science fairs. I won many prizes at the local and state levels, and placed nationally. These experiences encouraged me to continue studying food and nutrition. By the time I began my dietetic internship and graduate program, I was just beginning to grasp the wide scope of practice available to dietitians. I’ve been fortunate to work in many areas of my chosen field.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
I’m a registered dietitian nutritionist with a passion for teaching and coaching. My focus is on improving nutrition, food safety & sanitation, and food quality. Since my career has involved clinical nutrition and foodservice quality assurance, I can help students appreciate the role of nutrition in their lives—not just their professions. We explore how to apply principles of nutrition in the kitchen, with menu and recipe ideas that can enhance the dining experience while providing satisfying, health-promoting nourishment.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
Completing their dietary analysis project gives students a perspective on nutrition that brings classroom knowledge to the personal level, challenging them to act on their nutrition goals. I encourage them to imagine ways to turn their ideas into menus that they can adopt to enhance their health. Students also gain a better understanding of how larger research projects help shape nutrition recommendations and public health policies.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
Remain a lifelong learner and savvy consumer. Keep asking questions, and evaluate nutrition information based on science.
What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?
Make sensible decisions that will improve your own health and let you offer health-promoting menu items to your clients.