Returned Peace Corps volunteer prepares for new path to service
Ariel Dodgson is finding another way to serve. She is pursuing a master’s degree in food and nutrition at BGSU following her experience as a Peace Corps volunteer, through the Coverdell Fellows Program.
She completed her undergraduate degree in food science and human nutrition with a specialization in dietetics at the University of Florida and became interested in the Peace Corps as a break from formal education. One of the most appealing aspects for Dodgson was the cultural exchange. The Peace Corps created an opportunity for a greater understanding of a culture, language and people from an inside perspective. From 2013-15, she served as a health volunteer in Zambia, where she spent her days teaching local Zambians about prevention of malaria and HIV as well as maternal and child health care.
Dodgson began looking for graduate schools that offered a master’s degree program in nutrition about halfway through her service. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV), she was eligible for the Coverdell program, which offers financial assistance to graduate students. BGSU is the only school in the country to offer a master’s degree in food and nutrition through the program.
“I chose to study nutrition because I really love food and science,” Dodgson said. “Putting those two things together is really rewarding and enjoyable.”
She completed her Peace Corps service just four weeks before starting her degree this past fall, and said the transition back to more structured days was difficult after living with flexibility in each day’s schedule for more than two years. But through her Peace Corps experience, she and other RPCVs at BGSU “have an understanding about each other that nobody else quite grasps.” The most valuable part of her experience has been the friendships and relationships that she built.
“As a RPCV, Ariel provides a global, real-world perspective in class discussions on community nutrition and firsthand examples of the challenges facing individuals and families trying to eat a healthy diet,” said Dr. Dawn Anderson, associate professor and graduate coordinator in food and nutrition. “Ariel is our first RPCV and is a very welcome addition to the food and nutrition graduate program.”
In January, Dodgson began a dietetic internship with Food For Thought, a nonprofit that provides supplemental food assistance to the Toledo area in a thoughtful way.
“I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge from being here in regard to grant writing, running and operating a nonprofit, and the struggle to provide nutritious food to those who need it most,” Dodgson said. “I’m currently writing recipes for a food box program that Food For Thought is starting.”
The recipes she is developing are simple, nutritious and time sensitive— they utilize the limited resources available to the organization. Through her work she is carrying on the Peace Corps’ overarching theme of continued service in the community.
“So far, this has been a delightful experience to work on for an exceptionally delightful organization,” she said.
Dodgson is working toward her degree in hopes of becoming a registered dietitian. She is interested in working with food deserts and food security.