The one year MS program strives to improve each student’s professionalism, by honing a number of skills including those listed below.
Every course contributes to the further development of MS students’ critical thinking skills. The core courses strive to help the MS students create their own framework of knowledge of human nutrition. To accomplish this goal, the faculty encourages students to critically assess each piece of information they learn while working to incorporate it into their broader understanding of human nutrition. Furthermore, the MS curriculum and thesis work enhance the students’ ability to analyze current and relevant scientific literature. The MS class is made up of students with diverse backgrounds in nutrition and experience with scientific literature; however, all students are able to improve their ability to interpret scientific literature in a critical manner over the one-year MS program.
During the MS program, students complete a number of assignments designed to improve their writing skills, advancing their scientific writing in particular. In addition, guest lecturers from Columbia University’s Writing Center help our students develop the skills necessary to write for their profession, and provide MS students with access to the Writing Center by appointment in a one-to-one setting. The development of the student’s writing skills culminates with the submission of a Master’s thesis at the completion of the program.
To receive the MS degree, each student must complete a Master’s project and thesis. The students begin their thesis work in the fall after reviewing potential projects from over 100 potential mentors and interviewing several of them. After confirming a thesis setting, the students begin their research training under the direction of the mentor. The students are exposed to a wide range of research opportunities, falling within the realms of basic science, clinical nutrition, and public health. Some students choose to further enhance their research skills in an area with which they are already familiar. Others choose to develop new skills in a new area of knowledge; most of the thesis mentors are happy to train students new to their discipline. Research work continues on a part-time basis in the spring semester and full-time in the summer, as the MS students prepare to submit their final Master’s Thesis. In this manuscript, the students demonstrate their understanding of the Thesis project’s topic, describe the skills they developed, and explain the contribution of their findings to knowledge in their research area.
Master’s students learn from examples and from practice how to speak formally and informally in a range of settings. They must present their thesis work to the faculty and their classmates, and they are expected to speak up in large and small classes, symposia, research settings, one-on-one meetings with faculty members, and in presentations to large groups. The ability to discuss research both formally and informally is an asset to any healthcare professional. The faculty works closely with the students, encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone and to learn to actively participate in class and research settings.
In addition to the support from IHN faculty, our MS students have a wide range of resources available through the Columbia University Medical Center. The Center for Student Wellness offers workshops throughout the year, focused on career development. They provide support for resume development and interviewing skills, among others. The Office of Career Services at the Mailman School of Public Health is also available to our students who are planning to enter the workforce after graduation.
All MS students are invited to participate on one or more of the student representative committees. The student representatives meet periodically throughout the year, and learn how to work together to plan events and community outreach opportunities, and maintain clear and open communication with the student body, IHN faculty and staff.