UM Grad Student Earns Top Honors

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi graduate student in food and nutrition services has earned a top honor from the Mississippi Dietetic Association.

Laura Blair of Jackson will be recognized as the Outstanding Coordinated Program in Dietetics Student of the Year during the MDA annual conference, scheduled for Thursday and Friday (March 8-9) in Hattiesburg.

Offered in the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management in the School of Applied Sciences, the Coordinated Program includes coursework and a yearlong internship component, plus a thesis option. Teachers and preceptors are invited to submit recommendations to the MDA when they deem a student is worthy to receive the statewide honor. The student with the most recommendations is chosen.

Laura Blair

Laura Blair

“To have one of our students receive this recognition signifies that we have a quality program with quality students; the majority of our preceptors also have students from other universities,” said Melinda Valliant, assistant professor and director of the Coordinated Program in Dietetics.

Blair said she was surprised to have been chosen.

“It is a huge honor to receive this,” she said. “I feel like I have worked hard throughout my graduate classes, internship and on my thesis, and it’s nice to know that the professors and faculty have recognized that and supported me throughout. I could not have gotten to where I am without those professors who have been there for me and guided me throughout the program.”

Blair’s thesis topic is on determining whether collegiate athletes are more likely to exhibit characteristics of an eating disorder as compared with college students who played sports only in high school.

“There are a lot of studies comparing collegiate athletes versus non-athletes in college; however, I did not find a study that takes into account whether the non-athlete population had or had not played sports in high school, and if that affected their eating and working-out patterns in college.

“A lot of focus is put on collegiate athletes and eating disorders, but this study will hopefully focus more on the non-athlete population and whether playing sports in high school has any effect on their eating habits and body image in college.”

A graduate of Jackson Preparatory School, Blair holds a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from Ole Miss. Her other UM honors include membership in Mortar Board national academic and leadership honor society, Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, and National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Slated to complete her master’s degree in May, Blair has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout the graduate program. She plans to take the Registration Examination for Dietitians to become a registered dietitian.

“I would like to work either in eating disorders, sports nutrition or weight management,” she said.

Click here for more information about the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management.