Students Choose Sargent Choice

IMG_3245

Between a stressful workload of classes and a busy social life, it’s easy for any college student to skip meals and go straight for the pint of Ben & Jerry’s.  But Boston University (BU) students looking for guidance about healthy eating and nutrition don’t have far to look for advice and support.

BU students may be unaware that they can receive up to six hours of free counseling through the increasingly popular Sargent Choice Nutrition Center.  Since its establishment in 2004, the Center has offered nutrition counseling and support through Physical Education Credit Classes (PDPs), individual and group counseling sessions, and custom seminars for specialized groups on campus.

Now, growing demand for the classes and programs has led to the employment of six dietitians purely for the Nutrition Center.  Sargent Choice Nutrition Center is also looking to add a sixth PDP course next year, in order to meet an “ever-increasing demand,” according to Registered Dietitian Rachel Reynolds.

Reynolds said that PDP courses like “Healthy Cooking on a Budget,” “Vegetarian Cooking,” and “Healthy Dieting/Nutrition Essentials” are Sargent Choice Nutrition Center’s most popular services, and the classes usually fill up.

“We’re trying to figure out ways that we can catch more than one person at a time,” Reynolds said of Sargent’s desire to reach larger numbers of students.  “It’s nice when we can capture 20, 25 people in a class.”

Of course, individual counseling is also a popular option, and last year 1400 students and 700 non-students (members of the general public) met with Sargent’s registered dietitians to talk about eating/digestive disorders, sports nutrition, weight loss/gain, and even simply adjusting to a new diet in college.

“We also see people for healthy meal planning: people who are newly in college,” Reynolds said.  “They’re experiencing this transition between living at home and having food provided for them, and now they sort of have to make their own food decisions.”

One such student was Hayley Puzo, a BU College of Communication sophomore who turned to Sargent Choice Nutrition Center as a freshman, looking for guidance on healthy eating.

“It was good.  It was supportive,” Puzo said of her individual counseling experience.  “Any questions that I had about food in the dining hall were answered.”

Puzo said she tried to make another appointment with a dietitian this year, and was surprised by the two-week wait.  Still interested in learning more, Puzo is currently taking the “Introduction to Nutrition” course for credit offered by the BU College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College.

Many Boston-area colleges have some sort of nutritional service as a component to their other health services, but having an entire program dedicated to nutrition services and counseling is relatively rare.

“It seems we are the only university that has six…registered dietitians that are focused on this program,” Reynolds said.  Sargent Choice Nutrition Center is also associated with the Sargent Choice full-service dining program and a popular blog.  “It seems we’re pretty unique.”

Above all else, Reynolds encouraged BU students to take advantage of the services offered through the university.

“It’s great that this is an opportunity for people,” said Reynolds.  “We’re here to support the students.”

Anyone interested in registering for a session or class, or finding out more about the Sargent Choice Nutrition Center, can do so here.

Can A News Organization Be A Successful Advertising Platform, Too?

For my first set of observations about InTheCapital, I decided to focus on the site’s overall setup, starting with the website’s home page.

It’s got a lot going on.  Article headlines in bold font with accompanying photos, featured events, ads, and reader commentaries can all be found on a busy but enticing home page.  “Today in D.C.” features four of the day’s top headlines, paired with a larger photograph.

Below that, one will see a list of story headlines and accompanying photos and ratings (InTheCapital uses “The Flame score” to rate articles based on their comments, ‘shares’ on social media, and the number of views the article receives).

As I scrolled through the list of recent stories, I was reminded of scrolling through the popular story headlines on BuzzFeed, as both use graphics and large headline text within a seemingly never-ending list of stories to catch a reader’s eye.

Similar, am I right?

Similar, am I right?

InTheCapital‘s writers are prominently featured under their bylines (including cute little circular photographs of the writers).  In this way, the set-up definitely reminds me of a blog – it encourages readers to find favorite writers and to keep track of when they publish new material.

There’s a lot more to the creative set-up of InTheCapital that I plan to look closer at in later posts.  For now, though, I want to take a minute to focus on one of the more unique components to this website.

InTheCapital is more than just a news-producing website: the site is unique in that it sells “channels” to advertisers.  For $100 a month/$1000 a year for a basic plan, InTheCapital will essentially sell space to advertisers for them to post articles related to their products or companies.  Member channels pay $500 a month/$5000 a year, and range from PennSocialDC to Verizon.

I checked out one member’s channel: Congressional Federal.  A federal credit union serving members of the House of Reps and their families, as well as other employee groups in Washington, Congressional Federal’s channel contains five articles, ranging from a Q&A about the company to an informational posting that Congressional Federal had won the 2013 Care Award for mission service.

The articles are clearly identified as being written by Congressional Federal, but the setup of the page is the same style as other pages on InTheCapital.

My question for those of you reading is, is this ethical?  InTheCapital is providing a great way for companies to advertise their products and reach InTheCapital‘s desirable audience, but I do wonder how InTheCapital can produce content that is objective, when the site is essentially making money by hosting content written by advertisers.  It’s certainly an innovative way for InTheCapital to afford to stay up and running, but I have to wonder if a website can be a successful advertisement platform and a reliable news source at the same time.

What do you think?  Comment below!

Inside InTheCapital

Over the course of the next four months, I’ll be observing, critiquing, and evaluating a website that caters specifically to Washington, D.C.’s  young professionals: InTheCapital.

InTheCapital's homepage.

InTheCapital’s homepage.

A member of the Streetwise Media Network alongside BostInno and ChicagoInno, InTheCapital describes itself as “a new-media company reinventing local news through our community-driven platform for editorial content and discussion with a funny/satirical, smart, empowering tone.”

Its coverage focuses on business, technology, politics, education, sports, and city life, and basically all things that intelligent, tech-savvy twenty-somethings living in the nation’s capital might take an interest in.

InTheCapital features traditional short articles, infographics, and compiled lists, all of which result in an interactive and engaging online presence.

This semester, my goal is to get to know the ins and outs of InTheCapital to see how the website organizes its online content, and to decide if the company is making the most of its layout and organization.  I’ll also compare InTheCapital to other similar sites, to figure out which practices work and which don’t.

Follow NewsFlash to stay updated with my progress, and while you’re at it, check out  InTheCapital for yourself!