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Educating Registered Dietitian Nutritionists

Every Registered Dietitian is a Nutritionist, but not every Nutritionist is a Registered Dietitian. And, at ISU, we are dedicated to educating the next generation of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists.

Experiential learning gives students the opportunity to immediately apply didactic lessons, as well as hone teamwork skills and glean lessons from real-time coaching. At most universities, undergraduate dietetic students do not enter facilities until their internship. One thing that sets ISU apart from other programs is a focus on experiential learning activities:

Undergraduate students in Foodservice Management work at facilities and gain food service management skills. Students in Medical Nutrition Therapy visit Portneuf Medical Center to receive clinical experience through exposure to Electronic Medical Records. Students in Community Nutrition tour local facilities, give nutrition presentations to community groups and volunteer at food pantries.

Our dietetic interns get the unique opportunity to learn from one of the few dietitians in Idaho certified in the nutrition focused physical exam. Kris Hilvers, MS, RDN, LD, CNSC, Clinical Assistant Professor and Dietetic Internship Coordinator is a peer champion for this specialized training.


Dietitians are the source for science-based food and nutrition information and our faculty and students are working to advance nutrition research:

Association Professor Allisha Weeden, PhD, RDN, LD, who teaches Experimental Foods, mentors undergraduate students on food technology projects. Dr. Weeden guided two students in their quest to develop a tasty iron-fortified chocolate bar. Their work was presented as a poster at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual meeting.

Fulbright Scholar, Cynthia Blanton, PhD, RDN, LD, studied at the Institute for Nutriscience and Health. This innovative center is located at Canada's University of Prince Edward Island. Dr. Blanton looked at whether the blood pressure-lowering effect of blueberry consumption is improved by the co-ingestion of probiotics, beneficial live bacteria.



Inter-professional health care teams are proving to both improve the quality of patient care and streamline medical costs. Our faculty are helping to optimize clinical care and community interventions through inter-professional education (IPE) research collaborations. Students benefit from these activities:

Associate Professor Allisha Weeden, PhD, RDN, LD, is part of the Inter-Professional Evaluation Team (IET). This team conducts health assessments and shares recommendations for “real kids” with their parents. Past cases have included children with autism, neurological issues, food allergies, and a range of other health issues. 

Clinical Assistant Professor Jenifer Reader, MHE, RDN, LD, is working with the College of Education on research identifying technology use in family and consumer science classrooms.

Professor Cynthia Blanton, PhD, RDN, LD, and faculty with the ISU Department of Microbiology are expanding our understanding of the microbiome through their animal models.


Student athletes must balance the typical demands of college with their training and competition schedules. Many of them struggle to find the time to eat well and some don’t really understand their need to eat more calories and consume extra fluids. In addition, disordered eating is common among athletes, especially those in sports that require them to stay within specific weight ranges.

ISU has a really cool, cutting-edge healthy eating program for student athletes. It’s called Smart Cooking on the Run Every Day  (SCORESM). SCORE is funded through a gift from Dairy West, a trade association for the dairy industry. SCORE dietitian Natalie Christensen, RDN,CSSD, LD, is a former ISU athlete (track and field, soccer).

SCORE provides ISU athletes with the knowledge and skills needed to eat healthfully, based on their individual nutritional needs. Program components include Individualized nutrition counseling, team talks, grocery store tours, and cooking classes and demonstrations.

Students are welcome to volunteer with Natalie and gain experience working with a "real world" sports nutritionist.

Our faculty are movers and shakers—combined contributions of this small group of faculty include serving on 16 ISU Committees, holding leadership roles in 6 state-level associations, and being active with 7 national organizations. These networks are helpful in finding students placements, introducing them to key players and helping graduates learn about job openings:

Meridian Dietetic Internship Coordinator Kris Hilvers, MS, RDN, LD, CNSC, is a lecturer for the St. Al's Critical Care Nursing Residency.

Clinical Associate Professor Char Byington, MHE, RDN, LD, is Past President of the Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She also previously held leadership positions with the Pocatello Dietitians Association.  And, she serves as a mentor to new dietetic internship directors.

Clinical Assistant Professor Jenifer Reader, MHE, RDN, LD is the National President for Phi Upsilon Omicron (Phi U), which is a national, family and consumer sciences, scholastic honor society. Additionally, she is the current president of the Pocatello Dietitians Association. 

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