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Food Allergies Motivates One Student to Future in Nutrition and Dietetics

Madelaine Dickenson
Nutrition & Dietetics
Northern Illinois University

Madelaine Dickinson’s journey to nutrition and dietetics was a personal one. Diagnosed at 13 with food allergies, Dickinson – a food lover from a young age – thought she had to give up most of the foods she loved to cook and eat.

When her little brother, Samuel, was also diagnosed with similar allergies two years later, Dickinson changed her attitude. Six at the time, Samuel had developed a love of good food from his sister. When food allergies struck him, his older sister decided it was time to learn what the two could eat, instead of lamenting what they could not.

Today, Dickinson is pursuing a nutrition and dietetics degree from Northern Illinois University with the help of a Christie Foundation scholarship. A sophomore, she’ll earn her four-year degree, then pursue a nine- to 12-month nutrition-based internship, a requirement for earning her certification from the American Dietetic Association to become a registered dietician. She hopes to combine her internship experience with a Master’s degree – ideally from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is also thinking about adding a culinary degree with a specialized path of study to her nutrition degree. Ideally, she sees herself as a Special Diets Chef and Nutritional Consultant in the future.

“I want to teach people that even with dietary restrictions, they can eat what they want to eat, and enjoy what they eat,” says Dickinson. “I want to help them find healthy solutions and move them away from long lists of things they can’t eat to showing them all the great foods they can.”

“I feel so lucky knowing exactly what I want to do with my life. Food allergy awareness is not just a personal issue for me – it’s a passion. I want to make things safer for people, more enjoyable, and open new doors. And the Christie Foundation is helping me make that possible.”

On trips back home to Arcola, where Samuel and the rest of her family still live, Dickinson still loves to cook with her little brother, now 10. In her free time, she enjoys art and craft projects, especially making jewelry and using recycled materials for her creations. At school, Dickinson is busy – a real campus leader. She serves as a peer advisor to fellow honors students and is currently president of Lambda Sigma, a sophomore honor society based on service, leadership, fellowship, and scholarship. This is in addition to 16 credit hours of class as well as office work she does on campus.