Welcome to Dr. Beth Gankofskie, Ph.D., MS, RD/N, the newest addition to our Discover FSHN Series! Dr. Gankofskie teaches dietetics students about food systems management and community nutrition and guides students through their dietetic internships. Learn more about her path to UF, her recent projects in online teaching and student mentoring, and her earliest food-related memory!
Tell me about how you became interested in dietetics.
In my sophomore year at California State University-Long Beach, I participated in a study abroad program called Semester at Sea (University of Colorado-Boulder). We sailed from Long Beach, CA to Baltimore, MD while taking classes focusing on the “International Year of the Child.” While at sea, we went to school seven days a week, but we mostly explored on our own when we were in port. I elected to visit the orphanages of the world, which was, as you can imagine, eye-opening. The places that stuck out to me were South Korea; Madras, India; and Casablanca, Morocco.
[The dietetics majors’] commitment, talent, and motivation to improve their skillsets and their yearning to be competent practitioners have humbled me.
I realized that the United States has less poverty than developing countries. Food is a scarce commodity everywhere and being well-nourished is a privilege rather than an inalienable right for most of the world. The trip made me realize I wanted to make a difference in food and nutrition. After returning home, I switched my major from biology to dietetics.
What path did you take to get to UF?
I have lived on the East Coast, the West Coast, and the Midwest. I completed my Ph.D. at Iowa State University, and I taught at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC before I accepted my dietetics position at UF. My extended family has lived in Sarasota, FL for years, and it was nice to “come home” to Florida.
Would you share some of the recent projects you are working on?
I have been selected for a teaching grant to convert my conventional Food Systems Management course into an online version. Even though we just completed a full semester of online learning, I want to improve the course using course mapping. Doing so will make each module of the course user-friendly and more engaging, as well as prepare students for the competitive job market with additional skills less common to dietetic majors.
Also, I am working with Dr. Jeanette Andrade for the 2nd year of a student mentoring program. In this program, the MS-DI students mentor the DPD seniors. We’ve found this program to be very helpful to both groups as often students will ask their mentors questions that they are more comfortable posing to a peer. We published an article in NACTA this past December. The research is ongoing.
Tell me about the classes you teach.
I teach Food Systems Management (DIE 4125) and its lab component, Dietetics Seminar (DIE 4505), and Community Nutrition (DIE 3310), and I serve as a faculty liaison to the MS-DI interns in rotations for food service management and wellness. I work to make all my courses applied through practical and experiential activities.
How do I do that, you might ask? By selecting new and updated material, including case studies and grants that students could actually use to solve problems in the community. I teach grant writing in Community Nutrition and have students study real requests for proposals (RFPs). As a result, each semester at least one of my students has had their grant accepted and funded, like the Walmart $1500 grant to help the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank. Students learn the craft of writing and receive tremendous rewards when they achieve success.
What do you feel has had the greatest impact on you as an educator?
The students. As I moved into teaching the dietetics curriculum, I was amazed by the aptitude of the dietetics majors. Their commitment, talent, and motivation to improve their skillsets and their yearning to be competent practitioners have humbled me.
What do you believe is the most important fact the general public should know about nutrition and dietetics?
Dietetics is the profession of nutrition. In the dietetics profession, we are applied practitioners that help patients and clients translate nutrition information and research into practical dietary information.
What is your earliest food-related memory?
I grew up drinking raw milk. Most people are shocked when they learn this fact because I teach ServSafe, a sanitation course. Yet when you see how the farm animals are cared for while living in a small herd, you realize that raw milk can be safe to drink. Raw milk tastes different from pasteurized milk, and it was a shock when I tasted pasteurized, homogenized milk for the first time in fifth grade.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I have two sayings that I deeply believe in and that I share with all my students. Like JFK said and I have revised:
“It is not what the institution can do for you, but what you can do for the institution.”
“No farm, no food, no dietitian.”
Also, the UF DPD has had excellent success! For the past six years, 100% of students have matched to dietetic internships. In addition, our students have a 100% pass rate on the RD exam on their first attempts over the same period.
Note: Some images in this post were taken prior to national guidelines of face coverings and social distancing.
P.S. The Discover FSHN Series highlights the unique experiences of UF’s Food Science and Human Nutrition students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Want to read more about the amazing work going on in the FSHN department? See our previous features below:
Shannon Mai, Dietetics
Alex Colon, Dietetics and Jenny Duong, Food Science
Jackie Shannon, Nutritional Sciences
Jennifer Jordan, Food Science
Lily Tucciarone, Dietetics
Tim Cassella, Nutritional Sciences
Savanna Curtis, Food Science (M.S.)
Carley Rusch and Matthew Beke, Nutritional Sciences (Ph.D.)
Alexa Hosey, Dietetics (MS/DI)
Vicnie Leandre, Food Science (M.S.)
Rufus Theophilus, Nutritional Sciences (Ph.D.)
Amber Fritsche, Dietetics (MS/DI)
Amy Jones, Food Science (Ph.D.)
Dr. Naim Montazeri, Food Science/Food Virology
Dr. Jeanette Andrade, Dietetics
Dr. Zhiyong Cheng, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Juan Andrade Laborde, Global Nutrition
Dr. Razieh Farzad, Food Science
Rebecca Gould, Dietetics, Postdoctoral Research
Becca Solch, Nutritional Sciences, Postdoctoral Research
Hannah Cooper, Dietetics, Private Practice
Richie Li, Food Science, Product Development