Samantha M. Coogan, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, FAND, is our member spotlight for January. In 2019, she was awarded the Emerging Dietetic Leader award from AND and was then made a fellow of AND. She is described as nurturing, driven, and having a strong desire to see people grow and better themselves.
Sam is the DPD director at UNLV and is a sports dietitian by trade. Sam has been a member of NvAND/its predecessor since 2010. She jumped right into the top of the leadership chain and served as President Elect, President, and Past President without serving any other board positions. Sam does recommend that members do try to serve some other position first before the president positions just to get your feet wet. Sam did enjoy her time as President because she grew so much as a leader and communicator. As President, she learned she had to delegate in order to get everything done. She feels it did make her a better leader not only for NvAND but also in her job as program director. Sam also liked being able to see what she had accomplished the following year as Past President and see things she had started be built upon.
Samantha reports she owes a lot of here career to UNLV. She stepped on campus in 2007 where she earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree and completed her dietetic internship. In 2011 she became a grad assistant, and eventually transitioned into the role of DPD director in 2016. She really enjoys being DPD director because she can bring the perspective of a former student who saw what worked or what did not work so well and has been able to make changes to the program based on this. It is a unique perspective because now as a faculty member, she can see the same stresses that her students are going through. She can connect with them really well because she had the same wins and losses. Plus, she is now getting to work with people she was previously under as a student. She reports it was a nice transition from student to colleague. She feels many students can appreciate this journey since so many students from UNLV were born and raised here in Las Vegas. This shows you do not have to branch out and move away from the state to be successful. Sam also likes seeing the “lightbulb” go on when she explains a concept to students and they all of a sudden get the whole picture.
Samantha feels she makes a difference as an RD to her students by being very transparent which makes her approachable not only while they are students but once they become RDs as well.
Communicating better is the most important skill Sam says she has developed. Sticking to rules she had set is one of the biggest lessons Sam learned as an instructor. She discovered that when she would be flexible or cave on a deadline, the students were not appreciative because it does not reward the students who submitted their work on time.
Getting involved as much as you can is Sam’s advice for students. The more that you get involved, the more comfortable you will feel in your internship. Sam shared that she was afforded many opportunities like becoming a fellow of AND by getting involved. Becoming a fellow of the Academy has opened a lot of doors and elevated her position as an expert in the field which would not have been possible without leadership experience, though she does say that serving as a president role was not required for this.
In her spare time Sam likes to listen to metal music, work out, watch movies, and appreciate tattoo art.
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Supporting Nevada Nutrition Professionals