Faces of LIFE: Valarie Evanoff
From CNN to Dietetics: Following her Passion
Dietetics and chemistry tutoring were not originally in the cards for Valarie Evanoff, Life University (LIFE) B.S. Dietetics student. “If you had asked me if I’d ever be a tutor, or specifically be a chemistry tutor, I would’ve laughed,” she says.
Evanoff graduated from Texas A&M University in 1997 with a degree in Business and Information Technology. Her successful career afterward was spent consulting, with dual focuses in business and technology; she spent 10 years working at CNN as a product manager. She had a great job and was interested in her work, but didn’t find it fulfilling. She realized she hadn’t found her passion yet.
Putting sneaker to pavement changed Evanoff’s life. In her mid-20s, she began running, and this new hobby led her down other health-conscious paths, such as how to train and what to eat to perform better. She became interested in food and how the body processes it, making choices that would improve her running experience. “People started asking me for help with their training, both with running and eating,” Evanoff says. “I started getting interested in healthy cooking, and that’s when I realized there’s actually a profession for that.”
She entertained the idea of studying Dietetics, but it was a big leap. In her mid-thirties, Evanoff already had a degree, financial stability and a successful career at one of the world’s most sought-after companies. “It took me a while to bite the bullet and say, ‘Can I give up this well-paying job and go back to school at 35?’”
In making the switch, Evanoff researched Dietetics programs at Emory University, Georgia State University and LIFE. Her best friend is a chiropractor who graduated from LIFE, and after speaking with several dietetics students, she knew she had found the right place. “There’s a strong sense of community, and I like the small campus,” says Evanoff. “That level of networking and feeling like you’re a community going toward the same goal.”
Evanoff took no time to become a dynamic part of the LIFE community, signing on to be an accelerated chemistry student tutor for Dr. Meiggs. “I was scared to do it,” Evanoff says of tutoring. “But it’s been really challenging and rewarding. I thought it would help me in my dietetics career, having to teach people in concepts that you know, but many people don’t.” She is also the president of Nu Omega, LIFE’s chapter of Omicron, an honors society for health sciences.
One of the things Evanoff finds most engaging about Dietetics is its universal nature. “We all have to eat, so being in dietetics your potential audience or client base is the entire world,” she says. “It includes everyone, which is fascinating and amazing. But it’s also a challenge because we all know how to eat, and we think we know what the rules are, and yet we still don’t follow them. The obesity epidemic continues to grow even as our knowledge of the health problems grows.”
She believes the challenge for Dietetics going forward, besides focusing on necessary health care, will be to explore that disconnect and construct solutions, solving the age-old problem of “why people know what they should do and yet still don’t do it.”
Evanoff’s career goals now include opening up her own practice and consulting in the field of education, including schools, community centers and libraries. She also hopes to combine her past experience with her new knowledge, weaving together her affinities for technology and nutrition. She says, “I want to try and use my existing degree and combine the two. I’m really interested in the intersection between technology, science and nutrition, so how can we use tech in a way to improve nutritional outcomes, to improve our data?”
Since jumping from CNN to dietetics here at LIFE, Evanoff has no doubt that she’s in the right place. Her career change-up saw immediate results. “It’s definitely a passion that I’m pursuing,” says Evanoff. “My husband can see a complete change in me now. I’m a different person; I love what I’m doing.”
Faces of LIFE is a story campaign that showcases members of the dynamic LIFE community, including faculty/staff, students, alumni and health sciences professionals. Interested in being featured or nominating a candidate? E-mail LIFENews@LIFE.edu. Read more Faces of LIFE stories.