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Scheinman Institute Blog

The Scheinman Institute blog provides the latest information and news about the Institute's research, education, student engagement and outreach.

Dietetic Interns Seek Success Through Conflict Management


When you think about dieticians you think about professionals who plan nutritious meals for school districts or individuals.  It doesn’t sound like there would be much conflict. But a popular workshop taught by Katrina Nobles, Director of Conflict Programs at the Institute shows how developing negotiation skills is integral to becoming a successful dietician. Below she discusses the workshop’s goals and growing interest in the day-long program.  


1. First and foremost, what exactly is the study of dietetics?

Dietetic interns are typically nutritional specialists or experts that are in various organizations or community settings. The dietetic interns that I work with are usually interns at places like the Tompkins Community Action organization; working in the school district with teachers, school administrators, board members, parents, and other stakeholders to help the district with their nutritional plans for things like school meals. 


2. Why is it important that people interested in pursuing dietetics learn negotiation skills?

Quite often dietetic interns in particular and nutritional experts in general working in community settings are providing some kind of insight to dietetic needs that may be in a meal plan or a food pantry and quite often what that includes is multiple stakeholders. The major reason why I’ve been asked to work with them is to teach them how to work with multiple stakeholders, to learn how to get to the underlying needs and fears of the stakeholders, and how to present those insights properly and productively.


3. Do you see a marked difference in student attitudes towards conflict by the end of the class?

Yes, while the workshop is quite short, they do get practice throughout the course of the day, their comfort level definitely increases. Their confidence in identifying underlying issues and concerns increases, and once they get more comfortable with that they become more confident in thinking from that framework they become better at considering things from a multi-stakeholder viewpoint.


4. What do you think drove the demand to increase the number of classes offered? Do you see that trend continuing?

The biggest difference right now within the last three to five years is that people are recognizing conflict differently. Whereas conflict used to be a dirty word, now people are recognizing that there are smaller conflicts that happen, like interpersonal or group conflicts that can occur in almost any setting. They are realizing that sometimes they may not have the communication skills necessary to navigate through that, so they are tapping into conflict resolution professionals and coursework more readily. I don’t think it has reached its peak; conflict is never in low demand. We are always trying to work ourselves out of a job in conflict resolution, we’re always trying to teach people to upskill and engage in conflict better.