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Colette Strathman

College: Human Ecology

Major: Nutritional Sciences 

Graduation Year: 2024

Campus employment: Student Nutrition Specialist at Cornell Dining

Career Readiness Competencies gained:

  • Communication
  • Professionalism 
  • Leadership

How did you hear about your campus job?

Initially, I reached out to the dietitian at Cornell Dining and asked if they were hiring since I wanted to be more involved in the nutritional side of dining. They weren’t at the time, but I still worked for Cornell Dining serving food at West Campus. Once a role within the nutrition team opened up, the dietitian reached out to me and I applied. 

What are some of your responsibilities at your campus job?

I look at the nutrition facts for food and make sure the allergen and nutrition information is accurate. We have several projects that ensure this information is up-to-date. Right now, we're also working on ingredient review. A vendor can change their nutrition information at any time and not tell us, so every two years, we check all of our products and make sure the information is updated. 

I also help with front-facing student events, like pop-ups, that educate students on topics like nutrition and how to eat well in the dining halls. 

What made you choose this opportunity on campus? What was it that set it apart from other jobs?

I chose this opportunity because it’s unique and aligns with my major. I didn’t find many opportunities that had direct nutrition experience with a dietitian on campus, so when I heard this opportunity, I knew it would be a great fit. That hands-on experience drew me to the job. 

What are your top three skills developed in this role?

1. Communication — Since this job is virtual most of the time, communication is really important. I’ve learned how to communicate with my peers and supervisors effectively so we’re still connected even if we’re remote. If I have a question or an update on something, I know to include relevant information in a timely manner so there’s as much clarity as possible. 

I’ve enhanced my in-person communication skills as well. I go to dining halls to meet with chefs and students, and those meetings have taught me  how to become an active listener and helped me polish my presentation skills. 

2. Professionalism — I’ve enhanced my professionalism in this role, and one of the biggest areas of growth for me has been in time management. There are a lot of moving parts in my job, and I’m also focusing on my studies. I’ve learned how to prioritize tasks and coordinate projects effectively so I can get things done on time while still paying proper attention to detail. I use Google Calendar and Google Keep to schedule work time and create to-do lists that help me stay organized and on track.  

3. Leadership — I've also gained a lot of leadership skills in this role. I’m the most senior student worker on my team and often train new student teammates, send them reminders about projects, and assist them if they need help. It can take a year or more to fully understand all of the various projects that we work on, so I'm continuously training my peers.

In the fall semester, the student nutrition specialists also worked several pop-up events that required us to talk with students we didn’t know. Our student nutrition specialists team was composed of new members except for me, and I took the lead so the team could learn how to communicate our nutrition education. After a few students came by, I encouraged my new teammates to take the lead, and they did great! Now, they run a lot of the pop ups on their own.

What’s your favorite thing about your campus job?

I like working with my supervisors. The dietitians are really nice and fun, and they emphasize the importance of work-life balance. Many of them were students at Cornell, so they understand how important it is for students to have time to focus on their studies and extracurricular activities. They’re very understanding and I appreciate how they look out for their student workers. 

Which experiences in your campus job do you think will help you in your career after Cornell?

A lot of my experiences will be transferable since I work in the nutrition department and I want to be a dietitian. For example, the database we work with is called Food Service Suite (FSS), and a lot of dietitian jobs in food service use that system. The experience I have with this system is directly transferable to the role I want to pursue after my time at Cornell. 

How has working on campus shaped your student experience at Cornell and helped you grow as a person?   

It’s given me a chance to understand the Cornell community better. Hearing ideas and feedback from students has expanded my view of Cornell and how important Dining is to the student experience. 

I’m also grateful to be in a job where I can help make a difference. If someone has an allergy they’re concerned about, I point them to the dietitians and explain how they can help. It’s gratifying knowing I can positively impact someone’s ability to eat on campus.

What advice do you have for other students interested in campus jobs?

Be open minded. When I was first hired for Dining, I lived on North Campus but I was serving food to students on West Campus. Working in an area of campus I wasn’t familiar with turned out to be fun and broadened my perspective on Cornell. Even if you don’t get the opportunity you were hoping for, or are placed somewhere that wasn’t your first choice, stick with it—you never know what can come out of it. 

Looking for a campus job? Cornell Career Services can help! Book an appointment for your job search needs Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. or drop in at 103 Barnes Hall Monday through Friday, 1 - 4 p.m.