Charleen Fields’ college experience was unique.
During her time at Missouri State, Fields gave birth to two children, Brittany and Chris. But juggling new motherhood didn’t deter her from finishing her education.
“It was a very hectic time, but I made it through,” she said.
Finding flexibility and help as a parent
Fields attended Missouri State from 1992 to 1996. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics.
She came to Missouri State to study education. However, a college job at CoxHealth hospital changed her course and gave her a passion for nutrition.
“My time at Cox while I was in college showed me how important proper nutrition is for people — whether they’re in the hospital or not,” Fields said.
Her job and her involvement in the Association of Black Collegians and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. helped prepare her for her eventual career. But it wasn’t without sacrifice.
“There are times I think I didn’t have the full college experience because I had my kids while I was at MSU,” she said. “But, I had a lot of help, and I remember those memories fondly.”
Fields didn’t have any family with her in Springfield, so she turned to her sorority sisters and professors.
“My sorors babysat my children when I needed to go to class, and my professors often let me bring them to class if no one was available,” she said.
“Raising my kids as a single mom took a village. And I always had my village around to help me.”
She remembers a day when a teacher used her son, Chris, as an example in class.
“The lesson was about babies and body fat, and my six-month-old just happened to be right there,” Fields said. “I was so grateful that my professors were lighthearted and flexible about them being in class with me.”
One such professor was Carmen Boyd, assistant professor of biomedical sciences. Fields cites Boyd as a positive influence from her time at MSU.
“I admired Charleen for coming to school while juggling parenthood,” Boyd said. “When she brought her kids to class, they were always happy and well–behaved, and Charleen did well in our program.”
“A source of inspiration” for current dietetics students
After graduation, Fields stayed in the CoxHealth system. She has worked in various jobs there for 28 years.
A typical day in her current role as food service manager at Cox North is fast–paced. She loves the variety she gets from bouncing around the hospital.
“Every morning I check on the employees in the cafeteria and in the new coffee shop we just opened,” Fields said. “I make sure they are following recipes correctly and that the flow is moving at a reasonable pace.”
Fields doesn’t develop the recipes — CoxHealth has one person in charge of that to make sure it’s consistent across the system — but she checks in to make sure Cox North is following all of those nutrition standards. It’s an important job.
Boyd is happy to see her former student’s success.
“Charleen has done well at Cox. It has been a joy to watch her career, and she is a source of inspiration for many of our students.”
Giving back to students like her
As she moved up in her career, Fields remained grateful for the support and help she received during her time at Missouri State.
“Raising my kids as a single mom took a village,” she said. “And I always had my village around to help me.”
MSU has a special place in her heart. Fields turned this gratitude into action when she began volunteering with the Black Alumni Council at Missouri State.
“I chose to do that because I know there are a lot of kids, especially young African Americans, who need the support, especially if they’re away from home,” she said. “They remind me of myself when I was their age.”
The Black Alumni Council has many goals for the upcoming years, including growth and involvement in community–service projects. But one goal sits at the forefront of Fields’ mind.
“We just want those students to know we are here for them.”