Dietetics major Ashlee Barkeloo has always been interested in the intersection of food, nutrition, and fitness.
“When I was little, my grandma and I would bake together,” Ashlee recalls. “We would make cookies every year for Christmas, and I would help her with Christmas dinner. I’ve always been really into fitness, too. Throughout high school, I was in a bunch of sports. I wrestled for three years against guys. It was pretty fun.”
As she grew older, Ashlee continued cooking. In time, she found herself cooking for the Air National Guard. It was during her service at the Air National Guard that she was recognized with the Air National Guard Disney Award for excellence in cooking.
Winning the award solidified Ashlee’s professional interest in cooking. She nearly chose to go to culinary school, but realized she wanted more out of her education.
“I started reading about the science of cooking, which led to nutrition. I found out I really liked that, so I started looking into dietetics programs,” Ashlee says.
Fortunately for Ashlee, the University of Illinois is one of the universities for which the Air National Guard provides free tuition.
“Illinois was the only college I applied for. I really wanted to get in. I looked at the campus, checked reviews, and read up on alumni. It looked like a great place to go. Plus, the people here are really nice and everyone’s really helpful,” Ashlee says.
The dietetics program within the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition has been challenging and rewarding for Ashlee. She says that her classes, along with a volunteer internship with the Illini football team, are setting the stage for her desired career in sports dietetics.
“I’ve learned a lot, and I know my classes are going to be really helpful,” Ashlee says. “For example, I came up with a practice meal plan for my stepdad. He changed his diet and lost some weight. I applied what I learned and it helped.”