Gatepost Interview: Andrea Gorman Assistant Professor of Food and Nutrition

(Photo by Erin Fitzmaurice)

What is your resume and educational background?

I’m in my third year teaching here. I’m relatively new faculty, I guess. Prior to teaching here, I was an adjunct here and at Johnson and Wales. They have a culinary nutrition program. So I’ve taught in that program as well, but my primary career was as a clinical dietician working in hospital health care areas. I did that for almost 20 years. I always took students as part of that job. Whether it was interns or other students getting part of their experience, I just loved teaching the students and seeing those ‘a-ha’ moments. … In hospital settings, we typically help patients with chronic medical conditions follow different kinds of diets to help prevent further complications or help improve their medical conditions. … I went to Boston University for my doctorate. I always joke that I’m trying to get a degree from every state. [I’m] done now!

How do you think working in a hospital setting differs from other practices?

The career of nutrition is so broad and varied that doing clinical work is only one tiny little piece of it. There’s food service, there is school nutrition, there is community nutrition. We have students graduating out of this program and I tell them, ‘Forty percent of the jobs – ten years from now – don’t exist today.’ Even with the poor economy, the nutrition profession has been a growth opportunity. … I always like to reinforce to my students that there is job security. Being in a hospital setting is different and it’s not for everyone. … Seeing the best and sometimes the worst of people. I always loved it – you learn something new every day. You don’t stop learning when you graduate.  … We do a good job of exposing all of the students here to all of the varied careers. We actually have – at the end of March – a whole program on all of the different careers.

What do you want your students to take away from your classes?

I have a diverse course schedule. I teach Food Culture and Society – nutrition 262 – that is a lecture and a cooking lab down in 209. They get to do some hands-on cooking techniques. Some students come in with a decent cooking background, but some have never picked up a wooden stick. They burn the spaghetti. It’s to help level the playing field a little bit – introduce them to some basic life skills, some basic cooking techniques. … The class lecture is more diverse in looking at culture and different societies. Last year, the campus had a program for faculty called ‘Widening the Circle’ that is promoting diversity in the classroom and how to incorporate and have difficult conversations around diversity and inclusion. So, I modified one of the projects that they have to do in the class. They have to create a menu for a family of four on food stamps for a week. This is one of their big projects in the course and so it’s a several-month project. … It’s challenging for them. I’ve added a diversity element to it now where they randomly pick out of a hat. Do they have a family with an Asian background or an African-American background? One of the parents is obese and how do they handle that? Two moms, two dads. Food allergies. All kinds of different things – a kosher family that doesn’t have a car. I tell them, “Your clients are not going to be just like you. How do you adjust and make a story around this family that’s realistic and is going to work for them?” They enjoy that. When I survey the students at the end of the course, one of the questions I ask them is, “What are you going to remember five years from now?” or “What was the assignment or project that you felt helped you the most?” and that’s the one that they always say will stick with them the longest.

Do you think you ate well as an undergraduate?

Do as I say, not as I do. … I didn’t have the freshman 10 – I had the sophomore 15 for some reason. Sophomore year kicked in where I had to really start buckling down and studying more, and so the physical fitness kind of went by the wayside. … I’m no exception just because I was studying nutrition at the time. No matter how hard we try, we all gain a few pounds over the holidays. We make adjustments and we prioritize and we get right back on the bandwagon. One bad day doesn’t ruin your whole diet.

What’s one thing your students might be surprised to learn about you?

I play a few different musical instruments. Some of them know that I’ve done ballet, and I’m on the board of directors for ballet for the state of Rhode Island. I played the piano, I played the flute and in college, I played the bassoon. I know, band geek, right? … I did it for my own enjoyment and I got to travel and perform all the way down to Philadelphia. It was a really good broadening-your-horizon kind of experience. I went to University of Rhode Island. Then I got my master’s at the University of New Haven. I was working full-time, and the company I was working for had tuition re-imbursement. … Good advice for students – find an employer with tuition reimbursement.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.