Aaron Plotke of Woodbridge, Connecticut, began his journey at UConn as a business major before discovering his true passion for nutrition. After entering CAHNR and declaring a nutritional sciences major, Aaron is now deeply involved in the College and all it has to offer. Here is what he said in an interview.
What attracted you to UConn? When deciding where to go to college, I originally started looking at smaller schools. When I realized that I wanted to have a larger selection of majors and more resources, I chose UConn. I decided to join the Business Connections Learning Community in order to make such a large school seem smaller.
Why did you choose your particular major? I entered UConn as an undecided business major. And, I was always interested in nutrition. I read different studies and combined fitness and nutrition in my own life but considered it more of a side thing. During my freshman year, I chose to major in management information systems, but I soon found myself gravitating toward health-related subjects.
I started to consider my options, like double majoring in business and something health related or going into health care management. Eventually, however, I decided to switch to nutritional sciences, and I was officially accepted into the program at the start of my sophomore year. It was not that I disliked business, but I found that I had much more of a passion for nutrition.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? In terms of my career path and goals, my experience as a student intern for the New Haven County Extension Center was definitely the most valuable. UConn Extension works on different outreach and health programs. For instance, it organizes informational workshops about good agricultural practices and food safety for people in the community. I was able to shadow some of these workshops. In addition, I worked in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), which hires and trains adults to go into their own community and teach about food and nutrition.
The majority of the time, however, I worked in the Connecticut Fitness And Nutrition Clubs In Motion (CT FANs IM) program. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funds this program. CT FANs IM aims to give Connecticut high school students valuable leadership and life skills by using college students, such as me, to be their mentors and trainers. Then, the high school students mentor children between the ages of 7 and 12. The goal is to reduce obesity in children by teaching them about healthy food, fitness and gardening. This experience made me think about education and consider the possibility of working with kids in the future.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. A lot of my involvement at UConn has been through the Business Connections Learning Community. For instance, I went on two of the BCLC’s summer immersion trips, to China in 2013 and to Spain this past summer. I am also a brother of Alpha Kappa Psi, a business fraternity.
In addition, I attended many of the leadership workshops organized by the Student Activities Leadership Office and have since taken on different leadership roles here at UConn.
Being so involved in the BCLC fueled my desire to know more about CAHNR, my new home. I became a College Ambassador in order to learn about the College and to meet other students with leadership-mindsets similar to my own. Thus far, I am excited to work with some amazing people.
What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? Figuring out my major. I felt a lot of pressure when I was trying to decide. As a business major, especially in the BCLC, I constantly heard about the business side of things. Eventually, however, I was able to get through all the noise around me and really think about what I wanted to do.
When do you expect to graduate? What then? I plan to graduate in May 2016. After graduation, I am going to complete a one-year internship to become a registered dietitian. Then, I want to get a job related to public health administration, join the Peace Corps to work in global health or go to graduate school and get my masters in public health.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I just joined the honors program. I am part of the Obesity Prevention Learning Consortium, which is a yearlong class where we develop a public health program that addresses obesity in Connecticut and work with WTNH news. It is a great opportunity for more real-world experience.
Overall, I am positive about UConn and CAHNR. All of the staff are very open and approachable, and there are a lot of great opportunities and ways to get involved.