Food for thought: How a simple question helped Kahler Gilmore to find her passion
“She’s probably one of the best students I ever taught!”
As far as faculty compliments go, it doesn’t get much better than that sentence. There is a lot of conviction in those 10 words, and it is how associate professor of nutrition and dietetics Laurie Bianchi, Ph.D., truly feels about one of her current students, senior Kahler Gilmore.
“I put my all into my work, and I really care about my learning process and what I am getting out of each course I take,” Kahler responded, flattered by the sentiment. “I’m genuinely in my education, and always listening to her (Bianchi) closely and just trying to take it all in. She is an outstanding professor and extremely knowledgeable and has taught me so much.”
Kahler – “it’s pronounced like Taylor,” she said – began her Highlander journey at Radford University shortly after moving with her husband to Wytheville, Virginia, from their home in Valdosta, Georgia. She had earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Georgia and had plans to further her education in pursuit of a career in occupational therapy.
“But, I realized I didn’t have a passion for it,” she admitted. “I admire the field, but it wasn’t the work for me.”
With her husband studying physical therapy at Emory & Henry College, Kahler thought, “I need to start figuring out what I am passionate about.”
She researched schools and found Radford University. “It worked out perfectly because we live in Wytheville, and it’s not a long commute,” she said.
She quickly found a home at Radford University, but finding her way to the nutrition and dietetics program was a team effort.
Food was the answer to Kahler finding her fit at Radford.
Her first week of classes here matched everything she had learned through researching the University. “Everyone – the students, the faculty – was friendly and extremely helpful,” she said. Kahler had enrolled in courses to pursue a degree in a therapy discipline, but after just one week of classes, it, too, did not feel right.
“I thought, ahhh, this isn’t it,” Kahler said, recalling her frustration. “So, I quickly ran and talked to someone in career counseling, and she got me thinking through my decision more.”
Kahler talked with Career Coach Deanna Mabe, who asked one simple question that immediately changed Kahler’s course at Radford.
“What do you love?” Mabe asked.
“Food!” Kahler told Mabe.
“I do love food – I love to cook – but I was kind of joking,” she said, recalling her conversation with Mabe. “But, Deanna brought up the nutrition and dietetics program,” as something for Kahler to consider.
Kahler had thought of that course of study during her time at the University of Georgia, but she was too far into her psychology program curriculum, she said, to redirect her path. Now, at Radford, she was interested again in nutrition and dietetics but was apprehensive about working toward a second bachelor’s degree.
“So, I met with Mrs. Mary Jean Miller, and everything just felt right,” Kahler recalled. “She was so friendly and was willing to let me start the program right then, and allowed me to enroll classes on the last day of drop/add week.
“I blurted out the word ‘food,’ that day with Deanna, and it led me to a program here that is a perfect fit for me.”
Pursuing a career in the nutrition and dietetics field is a “calling for me,” Kahler said.
She has yet to decide which career path to take after earning certification as a registered dietitian – there are so many to choose from – but she feels she has a “calling to work with women who are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, and helping them with pregnancy-related issues such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia and working with them to help properly nourish their children,” Kahler said.
Further, she said, “I want to do anything I can to help people have peace with food and to really enjoy what they are nourishing themselves with and maybe change their lifestyle habits if they choose to do so.”
This spring semester, Kahler’s last at Radford University, she is busy applying for a supervised practice internship that will lead to credentialing as a registered dietitian. The competitive, 1,200-hour internships span approximately one year. Upon completion, participants are eligible to earn credentials as registered dietitians by taking the national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).
“Then, I plan to earn my master’s degree and teach in higher education,” she said, perhaps following in the footsteps of the Radford University faculty members who are making a positive impact in helping Kahler achieve her dreams.
Faculty and career counselors “here at Radford have helped me get to the point where I am doing something I am passionate about, and I am so grateful to them,” Kahler said. “It is such a close-knit community here, and everyone wants you to succeed.
“I am excited to work hard as a student here and continue my education that will lead me toward a career that will be meaningful and fulfilling and help make the lives of others better.”