Dawn Phillips struggled academically before transferring to Oregon State University. She knew the program she’d chosen — Nutrition and Dietetics in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences — would be difficult, but she was not deterred.
“I didn’t want to study something easy,” Phillips says. “I wanted to do something that I could wake up to every day and love.”
Phillips dove into the program head first, joining the Nutrition and Dietetics Club and working in a student position at the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health. She hasn’t looked back.
“Oregon State has given me a chance to leave the past behind and look toward the future,” she says. “I have so much security in knowing that I have an education and a career I love.”
Phillips has earned her success because it didn’t come easily. As a teenager growing up in Alaska, her family went through hard times, and Phillips ended up on her own at 15.
“I didn’t complete anything past the eighth grade,” she says, “So I got a GED when I was 17 after moving to Oregon on my own.”
Phillips worked full-time service jobs for a while before she was able to attend school. She studied interior design for a year at Portland Community College, but it was clear that wasn’t the right path either, so she took time off to explore her options. It was around this time, at age 19, that Philips decided to lose weight and get healthy. She found women’s magazines and popular weight-loss books confusing.
“There were all these different ways to do this, but I wanted to know the real answers,” she says.
She found those answers by learning about nutrition.
“Cooking became one of my passions because it’s a great way to take care of your health,” she says. “Depending on your situation, you might not always be able to go to the doctor or exercise every day, but you always have to eat.”
At Oregon State, Phillips shares the healthy habits she began in her early 20s with undergraduate students by teaching cooking classes at the Moore Family Center. She teaches easy recipes that help students develop confidence in the kitchen.
“When people tell me, ‘Oh, I love this recipe,’ or ‘I’m going to make this at home,’ I feel like the class is working,” she says.
This summer, Phillips will continue her job at the Moore Family Center, teaching cooking classes to a younger audience as part of the KidSpirit program for youth in grades K-12. In the fall, she will begin the Oregon State Dietetic Internship, the last step necessary before she sits for the examination for registered dietitians.
“I have a really open mind about where I want to end up,” Phillips says. “But Oregon is a great place for experimental health care reform, and I would really like to help influence policy to include more nutrition services. I also want to help people manage chronic illnesses and diseases through nutrition and lifestyle changes.”
Phillips is excited for the next chapter and thrilled to have the support of her community at Oregon State — as well as from her family.
“My family has worked so hard to overcome their past struggles,” she says. “I’m so proud of them, and I know they’re proud of me.”