University Senate                                                          Proposed: September 21, 2007

                                                                                    Adopted:

 

 

 

RESOLUTION TO ESTABLISH A PhD PROGRAM IN BEHAVIORAL NUTRITION (GSAS, TC)

 

 

 

Whereas                the prevalence of chronic disease and obesity, and their associated morbidity and mortality, has added urgency to the need for qualified researchers trained in understanding the interaction among biology, environment and personal behavior, as well as for the development of interventions based on these understandings; and

 

Whereas                behavioral nutrition is a field that has emerged from the need to address the predominant role these interactions play in the adoption of healthy behaviors in individuals and groups; and

 

WHEREAS                this program complements the PhD program in nutrition at the medical center’s Institute of Human Nutrition as well as related EdD programs at Teachers College; and

 

WHEREAS                the faculty for this proposed new program has significant strengths and well-funded research programs in the field of behavioral nutrition; and

 

WHEREAS                the proposal has the approval of the Executive Committee of the Graduate School of Arts and sciences, and the Education Committee of the University Senate has favorably reviewed the proposal;

 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED              that the University Senate approve the proposed program and forward it to the Trustees for appropriate action with the proviso that the Education Committee will review the program in five years.

 

 

                                                                                   

 

                                                                                    Proponent

 

                                                                                    Education Committee


Proposal for Ph.D. in Behavioral Nutrition, Columbia University.

August 2007

 

The high prevalence of chronic disease and obesity, and their associated morbidity and mortality, have added urgency to the need for qualified researchers trained in understanding the interaction among biology, environment and personal behavior, as well as a need for the development of interventions based on these understandings. The proposed Ph.D. is unique in that it trains individuals in behavioral nutrition, a field that has emerged from the need to address the predominant role these interactions play in the adoption of healthy behaviors in individuals and groups. A Ph.D. in nutrition science is currently available on the Columbia University campus focusing, however, primarily on biological mechanisms. This Ph.D., to be housed at Teachers College, uses the rich resources of TC in psychology and education as well as throughout the university to focus on behavioral and intervention aspects of nutrition. The purpose of this Ph.D. is to prepare scholars to conduct research on the critical issues related to determinants of health behaviors related to nutrition and to physical activity; relationships among food and nutrition-related behaviors and health outcomes using techniques of behavioral epidemiology; design and implementation of behavioral nutrition and physical activity interventions involving educational and other strategies; methodological considerations in the design and evaluation of interventions. Students will receive extensive education in behavioral nutrition and research methods and subsequently submit a publishable research report that they have written covering research that they have conducted.

 

Admissions: Excellent applicants will be recruited nationally and internationally. Students will be expected to have a Masters program in nutrition or a closely related area. Admission to the Ph.D. program will be based upon (a) academic performance at the undergraduate and graduate levels; (b) research capability; (c) commitment to graduate study; and (d) potential for professional contribution. The student must obtain sponsorship of a faculty member. At a formal meeting, the faculty in the Program in Nutrition and approved Behavioral Nutrition Ph.D. sponsors from the Health Education Program interact with the student to discuss the student’s prior research and plans for the dissertation. An admissions decision is made based on a vote of these faculty. To insure representation of historically underrepresented applicants, recruitment efforts will be directed specifically at these groups through direct mailings and Teachers College has allocated 55% of available scholarship funds for recruiting and supporting minority and disabled students during their graduate studies.

 

Proposed requirements for the degree

 

1. A dissertation based on original research

2. Passing the doctoral certification examination

3. Two one-semester part-time internships with selected researchers in the Columbia system who conduct research in the areas related to the Ph.D.

4. Courses (75 points total, as required by Columbia University):

Summary of Credit Point Distribution by Area:

a. Core courses: 33 points

b. Course to develop depth within each specialization: 15 points

c. Research preparation: 21-27 points

 

 

Proposal for a PhD degree program in Behavioral Nutrition (GSAS/TC)

 

This program is intended to complement the already existing EdD programs in Nutrition Education, and in Nutrition and Public Health. The newly proposed program aims to educate leaders in the emerging field of behavioral nutrition. Graduates are expected to assume professorial and research roles in academic departments of nutrition, as well as research roles in government or nutrition and health behavior research centers.

 

In reviewing this proposal we had several questions

 

1. Why specify “behavioral nutrition” rather than nutrition? The arguments that were given:

            a. There is already a PhD program in Nutrition in the Institute of Human Nutrition at the medical center. This is a program that focuses primarily on biological mechanisms and the two programs are seen as complementary and in no way overlapping.

            b. The graduates would be clearly identified as having a specific grounding in the separate and emerging field of behavioral nutrition, which would make the program more attractive for prospective students.

 

2. Why a PhD rather than an EdD? The arguments for this decision were that the proposed program is much more focused on participation in basic research, including a solid foundation in statistics and research design. By contrast the EdD is not as much focused on research training, the students may be PT taking a long time to complete the program, and once graduated generally do not conduct research in their careers.

 

3. The overall course load of 75 credit points seems heavy, but the plan to limit admission to applicants who already hold a masters degree in this or a closely related field would allow the students to become involved in their research activities at an earlier time.

 

4. Most core courses, with the exception of one at P&S, are offered by Departments in Teachers College.

Many of the courses that are required to develop depth in each of the 3 specializations (Behavioral Nutrition, Nutritional Epidemiology, and Nutrition and Physical Activity) are offered by Departments of Teachers College, but also by several other units of the university. The students will be counseled to make their selections early so that the program director has an opportunity to ensure that the students will be permitted to register for those courses.