Chrissy Nichols graduated from Viterbo University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition and dietetics. As a nutrition program consultant on the Community Nutrition Team at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, she primarily works with the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).
“Attending Viterbo was a natural choice because from day one it felt like home,” said Nichols. “The nutrition and dietetics degree at Viterbo is a coordinated program that not only covers the dietetics piece, it includes supervised practice hours required to become a registered dietitian.”
“I chose nutrition and dietetics because after my grandmother was diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, she had to learn how to read nutrition facts labels and figure out which foods were the best choices for her health issue.”
Nichols’ initial interests were in clinical dietetics. “But after doing community nutrition rotations, I fell in love with the work and found the area where I could make the biggest impact.”
Said Nichols, “I took the VUSM 300 level course, which requires volunteer service. I completed some of my hours at the La Crosse Warming Center for homeless people. This changed my life. I saw these individuals in a new light. As a dietetics major, I asked myself, ‘What does this population eat and where do they get their food? How can I improve their lives?’”
At Viterbo, Nichols was also a member of the Student Dietetic Association. During her final community nutrition rotation at Gleaners Community Food Bank in Detroit, she taught cooking classes for children and exposed them to age-appropriate nutrition education.
She said, “We cooked foods related to the day’s lesson. The children gained essential kitchen experience such as knife skills to chop up carrots, celery, and other vegetables. We baked whole grain muffins—which they loved!”
Nichols has since completed a Master of Public Health degree at the University of Wisconsin. she said, “I feel very strongly about the importance of nutrition within the public health field. I was the only registered dietitian in my cohort but, again, I had the opportunity to bring my experience to the table and work on interdisciplinary teams.”
“One thing I love with this career is seeing a light bulb go off in people when they realize how an easy diet change can result in a healthier lifestyle. I adore watching children trying new fruits or vegetables for the first time,” said Nichols.
Nichols said, “Viterbo truly embodies hospitality—even after graduation. Because of Viterbo’s small class sizes, I developed good relationships with professors and I remain in touch with some of them. These connections were so important to my success at Viterbo and have proven to be important now that I am in my career. You’d be surprised at how many of the people you meet will become lifelong friends—or even a spouse!”
Nichols advises current students to create long-lasting connections, whether with professors or classmates. She said, “You never know when a connection may come in handy. Also, college can sometimes be difficult. Check on each other, grab coffee and catch up, or go for a walk together.”
She urges prospective students to visit Viterbo: “Take a tour. Walk around the buildings, sit and reflect in the courtyard. I was a first generation-college student and the process of choosing a school was daunting. Feel free to email questions to the financial aid office, professors or department chairs. They are there to answer your questions and help you.”