About five years ago, Keri Dougless fell in love with CrossFit.
As she went deeper into it, one section really captured her attention.
It’s the study of nutrients in food and how the body uses them.
“I started researching (nutrition) on my own and that’s when I came across the dietetics degree and learned it was actually a position you could get, working and talking about nutrition, which was really interesting to me,” Dougless said.
With her kids starting school, Dougless decided the time was right to go back herself.
“It freed up some time for me to go back to school and pursue the (dietetics) degree,” she said. “I’ve always known I was going to come back to college at some point.”
Making the move
Dougless searched online for nearby colleges that offered a dietetics degree.
Missouri State’s nutrition and dietetics program matched that criteria and much more.
“I was really impressed by their dietetics program and all they had to offer,” said Dougless, who made the hour-long commute to campus from her hometown of Carthage. “It got me excited to pursue it further.”
As a non-traditional student, Dougless knew she faced unique challenges.
She had never even seen campus until her first day of classes.
Supportive faculty in the biomedical sciences department calmed her nerves.
“I was very nervous about coming back and being able to manage classes, homework, family, working and all of that,” she said. “That was tough, but all the instructors here are very caring.
“They were willing to help any time I had questions. They were very understanding of my situation and it always worked out.”
“Being here for the first time, I was pretty nervous. As I got into my classes, I quickly felt at home and comfortable.”
Setting a foundation for her career
Dougless completed her bachelor’s degree (major) in May 2021.
She stayed at Missouri State to complete her dietetic internship (DI).
The DI will help Dougless become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and start her career.
“I have definite interests; I’m very interested in sports nutrition. I really want to work with families and children in some respect,” she said. “I don’t know where that will take me at this point. I’m keeping my options open. As I’ve learned more, I’ve fallen in love with the different areas of (nutrition).”
The DI emphasizes on-site training, experience and job shadowing.
“As interns, we’re all over the place,” Dougless said. “I spend a lot of my time in Joplin; this week I’m in Springfield. All the interns have an ‘MSU week’ as we call it. We spend time at Bear Pantry, MSU Care and Foster Rec. Otherwise, I do most of my internship in Joplin.”
Through her DI rotations, Dougless has expanded her view of dietetics.
“I didn’t think I would enjoy the clinical side of dietetics – working in hospitals, doing that realm of dietetics,” she said. “Now that I’ve gotten more into the internship and gone into hospitals and actually experienced it, I’m surprised how much I do enjoy it.”
The secret to her success
Dougless still finds time for her CrossFit workouts, too. She’s even a coach.
She credits a supportive family for helping her get this far.
“Find a good support system. That would be my biggest advice,” she said. “My husband and my kids were amazing through it all and very supportive.
“I think that’s probably what it comes down to: Having that support system so that when you’re stressed or feeling overwhelmed, there’s always somebody there to back you up and encourage you and help along the way.”