The First Summit

By Felecia Dispense

Photo credit: Felecia Dispense

I did it. I have completed my undergraduate degree in Food and Nutrition, and it feels so good. While I can finally breathe in a sweet sigh of relief, I would be remiss if I did not admit to feeling the weight of what it took to get here:

  • All the close calls, the almost quits, and the sleepless nights
  • The guilt from sacrificing my time with friends, my husband, and our three children
  • The sacrifices other made on my behalf
  • And all the community doors my degree required I knock on and the gracious individuals and organizations who were willing to open theirs

To all those who know this struggle, join me in a collective exhale.


Here are my 5 key takeaways for what it takes to pursue this (or any) degree path:

Photo credit: Jon Tyson, Unsplash

1. Just start.

When it comes to beginning something new, the biggest step is often the first one. It may seem like a leap of faith into the unknown, but that’s where growth happens. Do your research. Be sure of where you want to be heading. Then make the jump.


Photo credit: Ronaldo de Oliveria, Unsplash

2. Baby steps.

Once you’ve taken the leap, you may wonder how on earth you’ll get from where you are to where you want to be. What first felt new and exciting now looks like Mount Everest, and the only way to get there is the nasty climb up.

It’s simple: one step at a time. However big or small your steps may be, progress is progress.


Photo credit: Julentto Photography, Unsplash

3. Map it.

Knowing where to go next and how to get there makes a world of difference. It’s not enough to take the baby steps and keep trucking along. No one decides to climb Everest and then goes without a plan.

Taking the time up-front to align your courses for the duration of your degree will help you graduate on time and avoid obstacles. Your college may already have a “road map” of what completing your degree in four years can look like. If you’re like me, your map may recalculate a few times, but what matters is that you sit down and work through the problems. When in doubt, your academic advisor can help with laying our your plan and encouraging you to make the wisest choices for your future.

As long as you don’t give up on yourself, you are guaranteed to win.

Photo credit: Igor Rodrigues, Unsplash

4. Find your Grit.

The most rewarding things in life are the ones we work the hardest for. Chasing goals does not mean chasing perfection, but it does mean digging deep when times get tough and refusing to throw in the towel. Stare down the long road of your goal knowing there are obstacles waiting. Those obstacles do not decide the fate of your goal. Whether or not you choose to climb them is what decides if and when you make it.

Some obstacles may slow you down, and that is ok. This isn’t a race. You choose your routes and pace, but ultimately it is your path. As long as you don’t give up on yourself, you are guaranteed to win.

The most rewarding things in life are the ones we work the hardest for.

Photo credit: Scott Trento, Unsplash

5. Gratitude.

It’s important to take note of all the supportive people who helped you get to the finish line. The people who said the right things at the right time to keep you going. The people who agree to mentor, proctor, and precept for you, volunteered to participate in assignments, proofread your papers, and the list goes on.

No one achieves success on their own two feet alone. At times, it’s necessary to climb onto the shoulders of others in order to reach that next hold. It is so important to remember this not only while pursuing your diploma or when you finally take it in your hand, but also when it comes time to reach back from your summit to lift another.




Felecia Dispense is a recent graduate from the University of Alabama. She earned her B.S. in Food and Nutrition through the DPD track in May 2019. Her areas of interest include food science, research, performance nutrition, and nutrition in the armed forces. She is an Air Force veteran and military spouse with three children ages 5, 7, and 9.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s