Understanding Facilitators and Barriers to the Selection of Dietetics as a major by African American students

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Virginia Tech

Less than 5% of registered dietitians are African-American individuals. Little has been done to investigate reasons for the paucity of African-American professionals in the dietetics field. The specific aim of this study was, therefore, to explore facilitators and barriers to the selection of dietetics as a major by African-American students. Individual elicitation interviews and focus group discussions with African-American students currently enrolled as dietetics and non-dietetics majors at Virginia Tech were conducted. It was hypothesized that African-American students who chose to major in dietetics did so primarily for altruistic reasons, whereas African-American students who did not major in dietetics did so, in part, because of a lack of awareness of the major. Forty African-American students (mean ± SD age = 21.4 ± 1.4 years) participated in individual elicitation interviews and focus group discussions. Hypotheses were supported. In addition, personal interest was indicated by both dietetics and non-dietetics students as a factor in selection of major. Non-dietetics students believed that barriers to the selection of dietetics as a major included poor advertising and poor recruitment efforts. Directors of didactic programs in dietetics may need to create more visible recruitment and retention programs to increase the number of African-American students majoring in dietetics.

qualitative study, dietetics students, college, African-Americans