Sometimes taking a chance can pay off and, for Mary Alice Cain, a little bit of extra work has put her on the right career path.
Originally from Mobile, Al., Cain earned a degree in dietetics at a time where a master’s degree was not required to become a registered dietician – she had been grandfathered into the new guidelines. While she was pleased with her job, she knew she needed something else to help her keep pace with the competition in the future.
“It was always kind of a conflicting thing for me because I knew I didn’t have to get that master’s degree, but the more I got into my career, the more I realized it was only going to help me to have it,” she said. “I also realized that I would soon be going up against candidates that did have a master’s degree. I felt like to advance in my career and really move forward, I needed that master’s degree to bolster my resume.”
Cain lived in the Atlanta area at the time, but she cast a wide net for her graduate school options, researching programs across the country. She noted that the Georgia State Online program could be completed in under two years, which was very appealing, but it was the contact with program leaders that ultimately led to her choice to attend a local school.
“I had heard about the Georgia State program, and I reached out to Dr. Anita Nucci who is just wonderful,” Cain said. “She was the only person in my research who I found really gave me the time of day and made me feel like not just a statistic but someone who they would invest in and who they wanted to see succeed, so that was a major selling point for me.”
She finished her degree in May 2018, completing her studies in less than two years. At the time, the program was transitioning to an online format, so she studied in a hybrid model initially before it shifted to fully online. Cain noted that online instructors seemed to be extra prepared and overall “fantastic.” The ability to log in from anywhere gave her much-needed flexibility, particularly when it came time to seek out new job opportunities.
“Obviously the flexibility that the online setting allowed was really nice,” she said. “I at that point had started looking for jobs, so I started to have interviews to attend, just kind of needed some more flexibility. It was nice to have classes where you could essentially take them wherever and not have to go to campus and find parking.”
More importantly, projects built into the curriculum helped set up Cain for the future. She created a cookbook featuring quick, healthier meals with ingredients found at Dollar General stores for a research project on how dollar stores can help with food insecurity. After completing the project, she sent it to Dollar General, who emailed back the next day and wanted to work further with Cain.
“Having that opportunity to do that master’s project and it being applicable to the real world and helping me move forward in my career is so huge,” she said. “I think back to had I not chosen Georgia State for my master’s program, what would that look like today, what a different path my life may have taken had I not done that program and project.
Today, she works on a retainer-basis with Dollar General, consulting with the company on its Better For You program, which seeks to make it easier for individuals to find options for eating well. Most of her time is spent with her full-time job as a Marketing Manager for Asia and Egg Programming Liaison for the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.
As she balances her first house and her family, including a new 18-month-old child, she’s thankful for the journey and growth that came with a degree.
“The Georgia State Online Program set me on the right path not just for my career but for personal life lessons too.”
The 36-semester hour Online Nutrition Master’s Program is available fully online with a goal to enhance career development for existing practitioners and prepare students for additional advanced degree study. For more information or to begin your path to another degree, talk to enrollment coaches LaToya and Moisés at 404-413-4393 or [email protected]