An innovative class project created by University of Georgia foods and nutrition faculty member Emma Laing has received national recognition for inspiring students to take ownership of their health.
For Laing’s “Picture of Health” project, students submit a photograph demonstrating what being healthy means to them.
The purpose of the project is to reveal the many ways in which a person can strive to live a healthy lifestyle, said Laing, clinical associate professor and director of the dietetics program in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
“I receive such a fantastic variety of photos of the students preparing healthy foods, growing or foraging their own food, being physically active and even engaging the UGA and Athens community in nutrition education,” Laing said. “I have become so inspired over the years that I wanted to bring these photos to life in the form of a video that could be shared with others.”
Working with a UGA journalism student videographer, Laing helped direct a two-minute video featuring students engaging in a variety of activities from shopping at a farmers’ market to riding mountain bikes.
The video appeared in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics “Eat Right Weekly” communication on April 5 and their "Nutrition and Dietetics SmartBrief" on April 13.
Featured in the video are foods and nutrition students Riordan Dail, Melanie Ng, Nicholas Slagel, Alexis Nosiri, Samantha DeHart, Maleeha Rahim and Abbie McBrayer.
“It was an honor to be able to share my concept of health through this video,” said Slagel, a doctoral student. “I think this project is very unique and it shows the passion of our department and instructors to teach the new generation of dietetics professionals. This kind of activity is great for nutrition and dietetics students to expand their perceptions of health by learning from their peers that there are more ways than one to pursue health and happiness.”
Founded in 1917, the Academy's 100,000 credentialed practitioners in the United States and abroad help shape the public’s food choices, positively impacting health and wellness worldwide.
The membership includes registered dietitian nutritionists, dietetic technicians, students, and others holding baccalaureate and advanced degrees in nutrition and dietetics.
Donna Martin, a FACS graduate and president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, credited Laing for inspiring her students to think about health in new ways.
“Our students are our greatest resource,” Martin said. “They never cease to amaze and inspire me.”
Laing said response to the video has been exciting, adding that she hopes the project inspires other faculty to engage students in creative ways.
Carolina Cawthon, a Ph.D. candidate and former teaching assistant under Laing, said the project helps dispel the myth that healthy living is unattainable.
“I see a lot of people shy away from adopting healthy habits because they have this narrow idea of what being healthy means,” Cawthon said. “They think it means you never eat anything that tastes good and you spend eight hours a day in the gym. I think seeing so many people doing so many different things, it just opens your mind and makes you realize there are a lot of paths that lead to a healthier end result.”
Rahim, a dietetics major who is shown in the video working out at the Ramsey Student Center, said the project helped her form new bonds with her classmates.
“It is amazing to see that we all have differences in what health means to us,” Rahim said. “Getting to know our peers in this way has allowed us to come together and realize that we are becoming future registered dietitians to help create healthy, positive lives using a variety of methods.”
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The UGA Student Dietetic Association is an organization run by students majoring in dietetics.
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