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Loyola alum recalls journey to becoming a registered dietitian

By Dylan Peterson

Rebecca Perkins Eberspacher always knew she wanted to pursue a career that would allow her to leverage her interest in nutrition and personal well-being, but wasn’t quite sure where her passion would take her. After graduating from the University of Arizona in 2012 with a bachelor’s in nutrition, Eberspacher spent the next few years gaining practical experience to get a clearer sense of her professional goals. She would eventually go on to graduate from Loyola’s MS in Dietetics program and become a registered dietitian, but that wasn’t always the plan.

Finding a Path

As an undergraduate, becoming a registered dietitian hadn’t really been on Eberspacher’s radar. Dietetics is one of many specialized fields within the broader discipline of nutrition, and at the time she was only just beginning to get a sense of the career options that were available to her. “When I graduated, I didn't know enough about the registered dietitian path to prepare for it,” she said. “I decided I would go back to work for a bit to find out if it was even necessary.”

Eberspacher returned home to her native California and eventually landed a job at Google, where she spent the next three years working as a nutritionist at their corporate headquarters. This experience proved to be both enjoyable and professionally eye-opening. “The world of nutrition is so broad that you can really fit yourself into anything,” she said. “But I felt like people would take me more seriously if I had that credential after my name, and that I would be able to grow into a higher paid position.”

Applying to Programs

Registered dietitians are required to complete an accredited internship program and pass an official registration exam, and by this time Eberspacher was well aware of how competitive these programs could be. She had briefly enrolled in a master’s in clinical nutrition program at NYU prior to working at Google, but ultimately returned home after some difficulty landing a dietetics internship. Nevertheless, over the next several years she was committed to finding a program that would take her.

Eventually, Eberspacher was able to earn a spot in Loyola’s MS in Dietetics program after reaching out directly to the program’s director in an effort to advocate for herself and highlight her credentials. “I had never been to Chicago, and I don't come from a Catholic background, but I liked the intimacy of the small cohort in Loyola’s program. I thought, let’s just take the leap and see what Loyola is all about,” she said.

Studying at Loyola

As a student at a Loyola, Eberspacher took advantage of the many opportunities that come with Chicago’s status as a major metropolitan city and medical hub. “Loyola was able to give us really great hands-on experiences with our internships. We were placed in some of the best hospitals in the world,” she said. “Loyola’s professors were so knowledgeable and supportive of us. They really wanted to make sure we were prepared for our careers.”

Today, Eberspacher has leveraged her dietitian credential to become a virtual one-on-one diabetes counselor, and strongly encourages others considering her path to take the leap. “My biggest piece of advice is to never give up. Coming from someone who took at least five years to get into a program, getting a rejection doesn't mean you're not good enough,” said Eberspacher. “Never be afraid to ask why or ask for more.”