Meet Kay Williams, ACU alumnus turned internship director for ACU Online’s Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetic Internship. After years in the field as a clinician, she realized her love for mentoring others transformed into educating students in the classroom. Beyond the tactical skills students need to be successful, Kay’s focus and wish is that her students build their character and develop a heart of service. Learn how Kay’s leadership and expertise is creating change in the field of nutrition and influencing both the lives of her students and the lives they touch.
A Formative Foundation
Kay grew up in a farming community in Wellington, located in the Texas Panhandle. Farming played a huge influence in Kay’s day-to-day life growing up, which later impacted the trajectory of her day-to-day work. It was in those formative years canning and cooking fruits and vegetables with her father and being introduced to her community’s 4-H club, she learned the importance of nutrition. That passion carried on throughout high school and into college, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition at ACU in 1981.
After graduating from ACU and applying to various internships, Kay continued her education in nutrition at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee where she earned her internship hours and masters in 1982. Shortly thereafter, Kay moved back to Texas to pursue clinical dietetics and started her own practice in Waco, where she specializes in eating disorders, intuitive eating and fertility. As her work as a consulting dietician grew, she recognized the value of mentoring others in order to help many.
Helping Create Change
Sometime later, Kay began adjuncting at Baylor University where she worked for 13 years in addition to her private practice. She also helped develop Texas A&M University’s dietetic internship program. With her extensive background in the field as well as in the classroom, Kay was ACU’s first call when they decided to expand their online offerings in nutrition. They asked Kay to assist them in creating ACU’s internship program, and Kay hasn’t looked back since. “I consider myself more of a clinician than an educator,” Kay reflected. “But I’m a better educator because I’m a clinician.” Her well-rounded experience has proved invaluable to students as they leave her program and go to work in the field themselves.
Throughout the past several years, Kay has watched her program grow and evolve for the betterment of students and their clients. Since its inception, the internship program now offers more rotations than ever and reaches into various communities within the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and beyond. With the program’s emphasis on poverty, Kay has enjoyed getting to see her students partner with nonprofits such as CitySqaure in downtown Dallas where they are given the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus through their service. “That is one of the rotations I’m most proud of,” Kay explained. “Without first providing others with food and shelter, it’s hard to provide them with anything else.” As a result, food and diet education is one of the most important first steps to alleviating poverty and enabling human flourishing.
Improving Students’ Approach to Poverty
Kay has seen the effects of poverty not only through these specific rotations, but throughout her time traveling internationally and in the U.S. “I’ve seen a lot of hunger during time spent in Africa, Honduras and right here in the states,” Kay reflected. “As Christians and professionals, we want to not only feed their souls, but we also need to feed their physical bodies.”
To help contextualize poverty and help her students understand its systemic effects, Kay trains them to look for things that go beyond the physical needs and consider the different variables that might have gotten those struggling socioeconomically to their place of deprivation. At the end of the program, students are able to approach poverty and nutrition with a holistic view that assesses everything from everyday problems to policy change. Kay believes that, no matter where students end up working, exposure to poverty creates more informed dieticians with a more balanced, empathetic view of their patients. “A normal dietician sees that someone is slightly malnourished, but because of ACU’s training, our students go in and ask questions such as: ‘Do you have a working refrigerator?’ or ‘Do you have access to transportation?,’ Kay explained. ACU equips graduates to evaluate what variables are affecting individuals experiencing poverty and how those might have led them to a hospital or to the streets.
Living Out Our Vocation
Throughout her work as a clinician and an educator, Kay’s proudest moments are seeing her students in the trenches after graduating. From food banks and helping the homeless to serving the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program and working with kidney dialysis patients, the impact of mentors like Kay is serving thousands. “I believe our students are better at what they do because of the program they took,” she said. “The Bible tells us there will be the poor, but it’s our vocation to alleviate the problem of hunger and extend our hearts to others.”
Kay currently resides in Waco with her husband and two sons and loves to experience all the wonders of God through nature and staying active. At ACU, it’s important that our faculty not only “talk the talk,” but “walk the walk.” Kay emulates how nutrition can bring glory to the Kingdom of God through both action and instruction, and she continues to find ways to enrich our students as they make a difference in the world.
Interested in being a part of that change? Visit acu.edu/online or contact us at 855-219-7300 to learn more about our Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetic Internship.