Success in school most often boils down to finding the proper balance between work and life. When it comes to discovering said balance, it helps to have a teacher like Jennifer Brown. As a faculty member at ASU’s College of Health Solutions, Jennifer is well-qualified to give advice on juggling the many demands students deal with on a daily basis — but her credentials go even further. As a registered dietitian and certified yoga instructor, Jennifer doesn’t just talk the talk; she walks the walk, both in her teaching and in her personal life.
Jennifer’s journey to become a teacher for ASU Online began, fittingly enough, with her own return to school. Following her graduation from ASU in 2000, she worked for eight years in the marketing department at a large corporate law firm in New York City. During that time, she became interested in yoga, and in 2007, completed her 500-hour professional yoga teaching certification. While her physical health was thriving, she was not emotionally fulfilled by her job, and soon felt ready for a cross-country change of pace.
“I was ready to move back to my home state, so I came back to attend ASU for nutrition,” Jennifer explains. “I was accepted into their master’s program that combines a master’s degree in nutrition with a 1,400-hour clinical internship.”
Jennifer graduated with her master’s in human nutrition in June 2013, and soon after welcomed her son, Wyatt, into the world with her husband, Jason. When ASU Online approached her about a teaching position, the timing felt right.
“It was a great opportunity as a new mom to be able to use my degree,” she says. “All of the courses I have taught have been previously developed, although I make changes to the content to make sure it’s current. I really like teaching, so being able to switch it up keeps it interesting.”
One of her favorite courses to teach is Cultural Aspects of Food, in which students learn about how different people eat around the world. The textbook is divided by different areas of the world and by cultural groups, with topics touching on traditional foods, food prep and the role of food and health within each community.
“The assignments involved are really fun,” says Jennifer. “One of them is to pick an ethnic restaurant and do a write-up about the experience. There are also a couple of cooking assignments. First, students cook a dish from their own heritage. Everyone has a culture and a background that we came from, so students get to pick something from their culture and create a presentation of them cooking their final product. Later on, there is another cooking assignment where they pick something from a cultural background that isn’t their own.”
One of the unique aspects of teaching courses in an online setting is that Jennifer’s students come from a variety of backgrounds. Some students are older, while others are on a more traditional college path.
“I’ve had a registered nurse from Colorado who is going back to get her bachelor’s degree,” says Jennifer. “Last session, I had a veteran in class. It’s fun to see all different walks of life coming together.”
To keep content engaging, Jennifer offers material in a variety of different formats, from journal articles to video documentaries. She also utilizes Yellowdig, a newsfeed-style platform that encourages students to seek out content related to the topics they’re discussing, then share it similar to how they would share an article on a site like Facebook.
“The students are required to add commentary on what they are posting, which helps make the discussion more interactive,” she says.
Because online classes often demand even more self-motivation and responsibility from students, Jennifer encourages her class members to reach out and ask for help whenever necessary. For her, it always comes back to balance.
“Sometimes students take on a lot,” she says.” Many of them work full time and have families. Being organized and keeping a schedule, having a planner and making it a priority to not overwhelm yourself is very important. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Teachers want to offer guidance whenever possible, because student life can be hard.”
Read more of Jennifer’s perspective on her personal website and blog.