Meet Natalie Cooke!
Natalie Cooke was born and raised in Raleigh, and her father graduated from NC State in 1971, so she was raised a Wolfpack fan! Many young Wolfpack 'cubs' dream of attending NC State and becoming a REAL member of the Pack – and Natalie was no different! Not only was she accepted to NC State, but she was also awarded a Park Scholarship.
Natalie's goal was to pursue a degree in Biochemistry with a focus on healthcare. By her junior year, however, she realized an interest in both nutrition and teaching. Nutrition has always been one of her interests. Her maternal grandmother was a County Home Economics Extension Agent. Natalie says that her mother learned from the best, and she was ". . . raised to love the well-balanced home-cooked meal." So, encouraged by faculty mentors, she added a second major and completed two B.S. degrees in Biochemistry and Nutrition Sciences and a minor in Genetics.
She began her graduate research for her doctoral degree in Nutrition Sciences immediately following her undergraduate work. In fact, she's currently doing her graduate research in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences under the direction of Dr. Suzie Goodell –- the same lab group where she was an undergraduate research assistant! And during those undergraduate years, Natalie assisted Dr. Goodell in developing a service-learning component to the Community Nutrition course. Natalie framed her undergraduate research project around the service-learning project and student learning.
Community Nutrition is also playing a large role in Natalie's doctoral program: "As a part of my doctoral work, I have been Dr. Goodell's teaching assistant for Community Nutrition for the past three years. She has allowed me to develop the service-learning lab component of Community Nutrition, and we are constantly collaborating and discussing changes that can be made to improve the course." And the service-learning program earned a snappy title – A PACKed Kitchen! However, Natalie generously gives credit for the title to one of the students in the Community Nutrition program.
Now, A PACKed Kitchen has positive impact in the local community. As a satellite partnership of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, there is also a great deal of involvement with other sustainable community partners -- Neighbor-to-Neighbor Outreach, AventWest, Head Start, Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation (DHIC), Urban Ministries' Open Door Clinic, and the Boys and Girls Club. Natalie says that this community involvement provides valuable input as she hears ". . . the success stories of participants learning to cook and eat healthy, affordable meals." She also has an opportunity to not only be connected to the community, but to see her students grow as nutrition educators.
Natalie says that teaching has been the most fulfilling part of her graduate career. Teaching allows her to be creative, and claiming to be an introvert, teaching lets her reach outside of her comfort zone. She loves both classroom teaching and mentoring students one-on-one. And she has had the opportunity to be both a teaching assistant and to co-teach with faculty from the Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences.
This year, Natalie was recognized for her work as a graduate teaching assistant. She was awarded one of the 2013 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards, presented by the University Graduate Student Association. She says that she is honored to receive the award, but NC State has provided the opportunities she needed to hone her skills and grow as an educator. She also credits her mentors (Dr. Jonathan Allen, Dr. Sarah Ash, Dr. Suzie Goodell, Dr. John Nietfeld, and Dr. Bob Patterson) for their support and guidance.
As a graduate student, Natalie has taken advantage of professional development programs sponsored by the Graduate School, the Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching (CoAT), and the Mentoring and Teaching Practicum (MATP). She was also named a Preparing Future Leaders (PFL) Ambassador for the 2012-2013 school year. She said that the CoAT workshops have been very helpful in building ". . . more effective, critical thinking graduate teaching assistants/instructors." Additionally, she developed a teaching portfolio, which will become important as she applies for academic positions in the future. MATP afforded Natalie the opportunity to give guest lectures to different audiences, as well as observe the techniques of other lecturers outside of NC State. And, of course, as a PFL Ambassador, Natalie can share her story of how the professional development programs have impacted her personally.
When not preparing for her future endeavors, Natalie loves spending time with her family and friends, including friends at her church, Trinity Baptist in Raleigh, and cheering on the Wolfpack at NC State basketball games. With her focus on nutrition, she also loves experimenting with new recipes. And she's been a long-distance runner for the past 13 years. She said that running ". . . has been valuable in preparing me to run the 'long race' of graduate school."
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