For my field experience I was at the University of Connecticut for the NACUFS internship. NACUFS or, the National Association of College & University Food Services organization is an organization that has programs all across the country focused on campus and university dining. Although this may sound unappealing to nutrition majors, this field experience was much more than a food service based experience. At the University of Connecticut where I was placed I was able to work with many managers in food service, experienced chefs, and dietitians. I also was able to organize and execute a Hawaiian themed meal for over 800 people. This gave me the opportunity to work on various leadership skills as well as other vital skills that are important for professionals to possess.
My preceptor has her culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University and worked for many years as a chef in various places in Connecticut such as the Mohegan Sun Casino. Now she serves as an Assistant Manager in one of the Dining Commons on UConn’s campus and serves as the preceptor for each year’s interns for the NACUFS internship.
My day-to-day experiences were very different because I got to work in many places across UConn’s campus. I worked in catering, culinary, the bakery, making ice cream in their Creamery, and also with one of the dietitians on campus. With the dietitian I was able to work with an online application called Food Processor and assist in diets of students on campus. Although I didn’t get to work directly with the students I was able to use software and skills from class during my time with the dietitian. Working in many aspects of food service gave me a balanced experience and allowed me to gain skills in various areas. I also gained an immense amount of management and leadership experience throughout this eight-week field experience.
Although there were many parts of the internship that I liked, the thing that I liked the most was the flexibility of the program. My preceptor chose activities that could be more applicable to me and the other intern since we were both nutrition students. The amount of things I learned about management and nutrition was paired with an immense amount of leadership, communication, and teamwork skills that I was able to improve. My least favorite part of the internship was waking up at early times such as 4am for certain parts of the internship. This didn’t happen often and most days I was awake by 7am, but as long as you are willing to adapt to waking up at earlier times this isn’t a huge issue.
The most important part to my learning was being able to be flexible and take each experience as an opportunity. Everything we may face in the future as dietitians may not be things that we like, but experiences are meant to make us learn and grow. This internship provided me with the opportunity to learn many things about food service management and nutrition and also about skills that are vital as professionals in any field of work. The NACUFS program is unique as well in that there are other programs across the country at other universities that also offer unique experiences some of which are focused on nutrition and others are focused on food service management.
Written by: Nicole Andler