About the curriculum
The MS in Nutrition Sciences is a 33-credit program designed to be completed over an 11-month period (four-quarter sequence), if full time. Part-time enrollment is available, extending the program duration to two academic cycles.
Integrated into all courses within the MS in Nutrition Sciences is an ongoing dialogue of the role of diversity in nutrition research, nutrition recommendations, and patient care. This includes the need to develop and incorporate approaches to better understand the ways in which race, age, ability, gender, and other areas of diversity may influence health and disease outcomes.
Furthermore, a deep exploration, alongside continued critical review, of past and current structural inequities within the nutrition sciences will allow students to examine the impact of systemic racism on continued inequity and health disparities.
Core courses for the MS in Nutrition Sciences degree explore advanced metabolism, epidemiology, and research methods. These courses build on previous knowledge gained in undergraduate science coursework, while establishing a foundation for understanding and applying the content of additional coursework.
Core courses also include two required seminar courses offered during the fall and summer in-person intensives, a faith integration course that examines the intersection of food, nutrition issues, and the Christian faith, as well as degree thesis or capstone project credits.
Students may pursue particular interests through selection of a minimum of nine elective credits. These can be gained from a choice of three courses from a list that changes annually. Potential offerings include: Nutrition Communication & Writing, Introduction to Integrative and Functional Nutrition Therapy, Controversies in Nutrition Therapy for Chronic Diseases, Advanced Nutrition Counseling & Behavior Change, Disordered Eating and Non-Diet Approaches, Nutrigenomics and the Microbiome, Food as Medicine: Culinary Nutrition and Healing Foods, and Teaching Nutrition.
A final project for the MS in Nutrition degree, which can take the form of either a traditional research thesis or a capstone project, draws upon advanced nutrition research to either apply it in order to improve human wellness or to support the work of an organization. Students need to complete 5 credits of either Research Thesis or Capstone Project during the course of their studies as well as deliver an oral defense or presentation at the end of the program.
Students pursuing a capstone project are required to complete Project Design & Implementation as one of their elective courses, while those who take the thesis route may opt for an applied statistics course from one of the other graduate programs at SPU to assist them in conducting and analyzing their research.
MS Nutrition Sciences Curriculum
NUTR 6100 Macronutrient Metabolism 4
In-depth presentation to expand understanding of the biological roles of nutrients and their metabolism: how we digest, absorb, transport, and use them in our bodies. It integrates information on the roles of macronutrients in nutrition and health with clinical applications in malnutrition, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Topics covered include carbohydrates and energy metabolism, dietary fiber, protein and amino acids, and lipids.
NUTR 6200 Micronutrient Metabolism 4
This course provides an in-depth presentation of vitamin and mineral metabolism with particular emphasis on nutrient bioavailability and absorption, transport and tissue accumulation, regulation of nutrient metabolism and homeostasis, and nutrient function with clinical applications. Other topics include the health effects of inadequate and excessive micronutrient intake, methods used to estimate nutrient requirements and establish nutrient intake reference and upper limit levels.
NUTR 6300 Research Methods in Nutritional Epidemiology 4
Practical application of how epidemiological methods are used to research questions within nutrition science. Examines the relationship between diet and disease as well as dietary data collection, study design, statistical analysis, and validation. Includes discussions of current issues and controversies in nutrition.
NUTR 6001 Food & Faith 3
Food has profound theological implications; eating is an essential way that we relate to God, to others, and to the rest of the created order. Theologically speaking, food is a primary means by which we experience communion, community, and creation. This course examines the intersection of food, nutrition issues, and the Christian faith, encouraging theological reflection on the biological, ecological, psychological, aesthetic, spiritual, agricultural, and economic facets of eating.
NUTR 6950 Special Topics in Nutrition 4
Seminar-style intensives taught over the course of 3-4 full days. Topics vary and focus on areas of current/emerging interest and research.
NUTR 6899 Capstone Project 1–5
Provides the opportunity for students to utilize competencies developed in their coursework by engaging in a sustained research project on a carefully chosen topic. The project will synthesize nutrition principles, methodology, and relevant context and apply it to an actual organizational issue or problem. Students will be mentored through this project during the second half of their degree program, and they may elect to focus their work on their current occupational settings or a local organization of interest. The topic and research methodology must be approved in advance by the faculty supervisor.
NUTR 6995 Research Thesis 1–5
This course provides an application of graduate level research methods within the field of food and nutrition, building upon NUTR 6300 Research Methods in Nutritional Epidemiology. Qualitative and quantitative approaches are reviewed and used in designing and developing a sound research proposal. Special emphasis will be placed on bridging the gap between research and practice of nutrition sciences. The topic and research methodology must be approved in advance by the faculty supervisor.
Elective course offerings vary from year to year and the number of options is based on enrollment.
NUTR 6400 Introduction to Integrative and Functional Nutrition Therapy 4
In-depth exploration of the philosophy and principles of integrative and functional nutrition therapy and its focus on whole-person, whole-foods approach that considers environmental impact, genetic predisposition, physiological, social, and psychological factors in restoring and maintaining wellness. Includes an introduction to lifestyle medicine, examining evidence-based therapies in lifestyle behaviors such as diet, exercise, sleep, social connectivity and stress. Explores the use of functional foods within different contexts and cultures, including references to historical origins of integrative nutrition.
NUTR 6450 Food as Medicine: Culinary Nutrition and Healing Foods 3
Equips students with knowledge of dietary patterns shown to prevent, treat, and reverse diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers as well as prepare them to implement food as medicine at a practical level in patient care, including nutrition considerations for various lifecycle stages and special populations. The pharmaceutical implications in using food as medicine are also explored. The course exposes students to basic culinary and meal planning principles with many opportunities to apply in the kitchen the concepts learned.
NUTR 6500 Controversies in Nutrition Therapy for Chronic Diseases 3
Presents the current controversies (in historical context) about the best approaches for managing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, weight management, chronic kidney disease, and cancer through nutrition therapy. Specific therapeutic dietary modifications, such as the role of saturated fat and carbohydrates are discussed in the context of disease pathophysiology and research evidence behind these is examined.
NUTR 65500 Food Choice & Ingestive Behavior 2–3
Exploration of environmental and biological determinants of ingestive behaviors (e.g., food choice, eating patterns, portion size) and their relationship to childhood and adult obesity.
NUTR 6570 Nutrigenomics & the Microbiome 2–3
Introduction to genetic variants, gene activation, and influences on nutrition and health-related outcomes. Topics include nutrition immunology, diet impacts on the microbiome, and epigenetics. Includes critical analysis and discussion of molecular and translational nutrition research.
NUTR 6610 Advanced Nutrition Counseling & Behavior Change 4
Equips students with the tools necessary to provide nutritional intervention through counseling and education using evidence-based principles and both in-person and remote/online modalities. Topics explored include motivational interviewing as well as common social and environmental barriers to behavior change. This course has a strong emphasis on client/patient-centered counseling.
NUTR 6650 Disordered Eating and Non-Diet Approaches 3
Explores the spectrum of disordered eating behavior and discusses various contributing factors that lead to a disordered relationship with food, including diet culture, weight-bias, and body image. The course introduces students to the science, research, and application of weight-inclusive approaches (e.g., Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size) as effective prevention and treatment methods.
NUTR 6700 Nutrition Communication & Writing 3
Provides the skills necessary to effectively distill technical nutrition information into a digestible, appropriate format for a general audience. Examines the impact of popular science and social media on nutrition communication.
NUTR 6770 Teaching Nutrition 3
Introduction to creating educational content with emphasis on course design, active-learning and virtual teaching strategies, and tools, as well as assessment.
NUTR 6800 Project Design and Implementation 3
Builds knowledge and skills to enable students to conceive, plan, design, implement, assess, and change nutrition-related projects and programs effectively and in an inclusive and socially just manner. It is designed to deepen critical understanding of the strategies, processes, techniques, and issues involved in taking ideas and turning them into practical realities with identifiable outcomes and benefits.