Research Perspectives in Practice| Volume 108, ISSUE 7, P1192-1197, July 2008

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African-American Students' Perceptions of Their Majors, Future Professions, and the Dietetics Major and Profession: A Qualitative Analysis


      African-American professionals are underrepresented in the profession of dietetics. This preliminary qualitative study identified African-American students' perceptions of their majors, future professions, and the dietetics major/profession to understand why they did or did not enter dietetics. It was hypothesized that dietetics students chose dietetics primarily for altruistic reasons, whereas students in other fields of study did not choose dietetics due to lack of awareness of dietetics. To learn students' views, African-American college students engaged in elicitation interviews or focus group discussions. Twenty-eight women and 12 men participated. Phenomenologic analysis identified common themes and meanings: African-American students selected their majors for a variety of reasons, including desire to help people, interest in the field, recommendation from an adult, and family influence. African-American students in fields of study other than dietetics believed that the dietetics major was not selected due to lack of awareness about dietetics. Both dietetics students and students in other fields of study perceived versatility, ability to work with/help people, and to have an influence as positive qualities about their future professions. Advanced degree and training requirements, lack of diversity, and low salary were identified as negative qualities about future professions. African-American students in fields of study other than dietetics had not been exposed to the dietetics major, careers, and profession. Recruitment efforts should begin early to increase the number of African-American students in dietetics.
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      T. M. Felton is a graduate research assistant and Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program scholar, E. Serrano is an assistant professor, and K. W. Hosig is an associate professor, Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg.


      S. M. Nickols-Richardson is an associate professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA; at the time of the study, she was an associate professor, Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg.