A Letter of Intent

by Sarah on May 9, 2013 · 32 comments

As a teacher whose career path has moved in and out of the elementary school classroom, I have always loved spreading knowledge.

Yet for almost a decade, my curiosity has veered away from multiplication and Virginia history and towards health, nutrition, fitness, and the issues of obesity, diabetes, and food policy that plague our country.

The signs that a change in my desired teaching focus was destined to come were constantly revealing themselves, as signs always do. Nobody in my fifth grade classroom was entirely sure how an oceanography lesson turned into a discussion on sustainable fishing and the health benefits of the smaller fish in the sea.

I am certain the first grade parent chaperones went home from our grocery store excursion just slightly perplexed as to how a field trip about community workers became an educational forum on food science and production, once I took control of the tour.

buttercup versus kabocha: discuss.

And I also know the family I lived with in Mexico was not expecting their guest to use her Spanish language skills to help them understand their multiple diabetes diagnoses and recommend steps to take for improving their health.

Even when I was laid off from my teaching job due to massive district budget cuts, I transformed my role at a high-end market from general service representative into the go-to healthy eating expert and educational tour leader. I was always found helping customers who were adjusting to medically mandated dietary changes or leading groups of community members through the store. I taught students about the science of produce and groups of handicapped adults how to shop both healthfully and frugally.

The decision to move beyond my Masters of Teaching and pursue a PhD in Health Education and Promotion is based on my desire to bring together my natural talents for teaching, writing, and relationship-building with my strong passion for physical health.

I want the opportunity to conduct research related to my strong interest in the field through the ever-evolving social and digital media world, while also educating others—and myself—about epidemiology, wellness program structure and effectiveness, and health-related contemporary issues. I want to be so immersed in both study and communication that I come alive the way I do when I am composing posts for the healthy living blog I have written for nearly four years, teaching healthy cooking classes to lifestyle-changers at my local Whole Foods, or answering questions from my diabetes-ridden coworkers about plant-based diets and encouraging them to go to the gym after school.

Over the past four years, social media in particular has educated me, inspired me, and motivated me in my health pursuits of food and wellness writing and recipe development through participation in the extremely vibrant and active healthy living blog community.

As a result, I am intrigued by the use of media as a health education/promotion/marketing platform. I am sure it can be a successful tool in our plugged-in society, but am also aware of its limitations. Despite the current popularity of internet and social-media based health initiatives and forums, including the healthy living blog community in which I am involved, I often find myself wondering if any of the ideas and research in the fields of health, fitness, and nutrition being transmitted in this way are actually helping the widespread community health problems we are facing.

I often feel these messages are not actually reaching the people who need the information most: those who do not currently access popular forms of social media for this purpose, either because they are not able to, willing to, knowledgeable about how to, or simply lack the interest to do so.
someecards.com - I've been eating kale since before you knew quinoa didn't rhyme with a politically incorrect Girl Scout cookie.

I want to help answer the question of how to best access and utilize what could be a far-reaching and extremely valuable tool for health promotion, establishing educational programs that will serve those who actually need the information rather than simply reinforce ideas and knowledge already accepted and understood by those tapped into health-related media.

Additionally, while recognizing the media’s strength as a promotional tool for health-related news and programming in the digital age, I have simultaneously witnessed, and personally experienced, some of the potentially negative effects of a constant stream of subtly, and perhaps unknowingly, delivered wellness messages that set up bloggers—and blog readers—for an all-or-nothing ‘comparison trap.’ Promoting positive physical health changes through social media outlets might also be inversely affecting mental health.

[Source]

In pursuing a PhD focused on Health Promotion and Education I will have the opportunity to begin to answer these questions, and hopefully contribute to the development of media-related wellness programs that would reach community members of all ages, technological savvy, and socioeconomic levels. From there, I hope to continue to educate others in their own pursuit of knowledge in this field, or in the development and implementation of effective health programs in the wider community.

I truly believe my passion for teaching and communication, as well as my natural curiosity and drive, would be an asset to your PhD program.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria May 9, 2013 at 2:41 am

Huge grin plastered on my face right now. Love this.

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Katie @ Talk Less, Say More May 9, 2013 at 6:49 am

So freaking happy for you! Congrats, good luck and can we celebrate extra at Blend?! :)

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Nicole @ Curly Mommy May 9, 2013 at 7:35 am

That is so awesome!! Congrats! You’re one smart cookie, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be an A+ super star PhD master.

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lindsay May 9, 2013 at 7:37 am

well, you know this, but I AM SO SO PUMPED!!!!!

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Lindsay's List May 9, 2013 at 7:46 am

This is a perfect fit!!!

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diana@veggienextdoor May 9, 2013 at 8:03 am

I am so excited for and amazed by you!!! What a heroic, interesting, challenging, and fun next step!

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Tricia @ Saving room for dessert May 9, 2013 at 8:10 am

You are an inspiration to everyone you have the chance to meet or reach. I am so proud of you and honored to call you my friend! Congratulations on this wonderful news. Your selfless attitude and desire to help others is amazing. Love you!

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Kristina May 9, 2013 at 8:29 am

I am so very proud of you-To quote Dr. Seuss. Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the gal who’ll decide where to go.
I am so very excited, and I look forward to hearing about how you will help lead people to new awareness about health.

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Liz @ I Heart Vegetables May 9, 2013 at 9:06 am

I’m SO excited for you, Sarah! You are going to be so perfect at this!!

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Michelle @ Eat Move Balance May 9, 2013 at 9:44 am

AWESOME. What a great PhD to pursue–it sounds ideal for your interests and passions. I can’t wait to hear/read how this evolves in the coming months and years. :)

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table May 9, 2013 at 9:45 am

I have been WAITING for this post!!! I am so happy/proud/excited for you, and I can’t wait to follow you on this adventure. AND have you closer to ATL.

Can I come with you?!

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Kristina May 9, 2013 at 10:06 am

To Whom It May Concern:

I am honored to provide a letter of recommendation for Sarah. A friend of several years, I have watched her develop a highly dependable work ethic and strong, reliable character. Involved in social media, #MMAZ, and highly skilled kitchen antics, she has balanced extracurricular activities with the responsibility of education, and can do some impressive things with nut butter. In addition to her well rounded schedule, she maintained a strong academic record and healthy social life.

Based on this, I strongly recommend Sarah for this program, and I am confident you will find her to be an impressive candidate. This education would greatly benefit her future goals, which in turn will benefit health and well being of society as a whole.

If you have any questions regarding this reference, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

spabettie

;)

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Ang @ Nutty for Life May 9, 2013 at 10:09 am

Amazing decision! Good luck, and I can’t wait to read more updates about this!

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Brittany (healthy slice) May 9, 2013 at 11:07 am

As I was reading through this, I just kept thinking DAMN, that is the most impressive letter I’ve ever read. And I rarely say damn ;)
You are going to move on to do AMAZING things, I just know it. I’m so excited to follow you along your journey and learn all sorts of awesome things from you. Congrats!!

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Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut May 9, 2013 at 11:54 am

Ahh so exciting!! Can’t wait to see you and discuss!! <3

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Danica @ It's Progression May 9, 2013 at 11:55 am

Sarah, I’ve been waiting for this post for quite a while now and I had such a huge smile on my face while reading it!! Congrats to you! You should be so proud that you’re pursuing this…It takes a lot of courage to walk away from your job and what you’re “supposed to “do and instead go after what you’re passionate about and love – you’ll be amazing and I think this is the perfect fit for you.

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Melissa @ Treats With a Twist May 9, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I’m so excited for you and am so proud of the way you worded this. Plus, can I just point out that image of comparing ourselves to everyone’s highlight reels…THAT is so true! I cannot begin to describe it.
Anyways, yay!!! Can’t wait for this new adventure to unfold for you.

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Lindsay May 9, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I didn’t realize this was your actual letter of intent until the very end. Congratulations!! If you need any tips on living in the South or particularly the Pensacola region where I went to school, let me know!! Good luck! :)

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Heather @ Better With Veggies May 9, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Oh my gosh – I had no idea you were thinking about this (although I thought you might move out of teaching). I’m so excited for you and I can’t wait to hear all about it next week! Woohoo! Can we call you Dr Smart Kitchen when you graduate? :)

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Carla May 9, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Wow, you go girl!!!

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Allie May 9, 2013 at 6:55 pm

I AM SO EXCITED about this for you and your future! And for you to be within reasonable distance for a blogger meetup ;D

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Heather @ Kiss My Broccoli May 9, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Woo hoo!!! The cat is FINALLY out of the bag!!! I’m so happy for you sweetie! And so proud! It’s time to go after your dreams! xoxox

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Brittany @ Delights and Delectables May 9, 2013 at 9:03 pm

I’m so excited for you!!!!!!! You are going to be great at this. It is perfect for you. And… I’m glad the cat is out of the bag! :)

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Gina @Health, Love, and Chocolate May 9, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Sarah this is so exciting! I have similar thought about the potential of a lot of the ideas you mentioned, which is why I decided to add a nutrition minor to my marketing major and focus on social media relations. I know you are going to be wonderful in this field and I can’t to hear about your PhD journey!

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Meghan@Clean Eats Fast Feets May 10, 2013 at 3:42 pm

GO GET IT, GIRL!
Awesome news, and way to follow your head, your heart and your dreams. It’s an amazing thing when you love what you do for a living. So proud of you, and I adore this part: “I want to help answer the question of how to best access and utilize what could be a far-reaching and extremely valuable tool for health promotion, establishing educational programs that will serve those who actually need the information rather than simply reinforce ideas and knowledge already accepted and understood by those tapped into health-related media.”
I’m on the Smart train.

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Caroline Eberly May 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Amen, sister! I’m happy and hopeful for you, that you’ll do a lot of good with these beliefs. And with what you learn during the next couple years. I’ll be rooting for you from Cville! Love, your proud Little.

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Missy May 14, 2013 at 11:40 am

Git it GIRL!
You are chasing my dream… so glad to see someone like you poised to TEAR it up and MAKE CHANGE!!!

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Amanda E. May 16, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I found you through Blend and this is a great post to see first off! I am really interested in the use of media in health promotion as well, specifically gamification of health. I think programs like Fitocracy have the power to really motivate positive change in wellbeing, both physically and mentally! I have toyed with the idea of getting my Masters of Sociology in Health but I had a baby recently so I’m letting that bomb settle before I make any other decisions. ;) Congrats and I can’t wait to read more about your studies and meet you at Blend!

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Anne May 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm

This is the most interesting piece I have read in a VERY long time!

I had no idea there were degrees in this. I would love nothing more than to learn more and hear about potential careers paths for this field!!!

Good luck!!

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Kath June 24, 2013 at 7:15 am

you are so perfect for this!

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