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Forced to start over, Global Campus student finds success

Claudia Woodard

Earning a degree at any level takes dedication and hard work. Building a career requires commitment, time and tenacity. Imagine accomplishing both, then being forced to start over at square one.

That’s what happened to Claudia Woodard.

In 2007, Woodard, a native of Germany, earned her degree from Germany’s University College Homburg/Saar to practice as a registered dietitian. She then began a career dedicated to helping German citizens improve their health and better understand their nutrition.

“I’ve always wanted to help people,” she said. “Sometimes, when you walk into a patient’s room, they think, ‘Oh great, this dietitian is here to judge me and take my food away.’ After you listen to them and talk with them, there’s a new look in their eyes, like they know you’re actually trying to help.”

By 2011, Woodard was an established registered dietitian who — with additional training and certification — specialized in diabetes education.

One of Woodard’s friends at the time was an American who happened to be in Germany with the U.S. Air Force. One night, this friend invited a fellow American Air Force member named Derrick to join them for dinner.

The rest, as they say, is history.

“After four months of dating, Derrick asked me to move in with him,” Woodard said. “His duty station was in Aviano, Italy, which was a big jump. But the only chance for us to be together was for someone to make a sacrifice, so I took the leap.”

While well worth it on a personal level, the sacrifice ended up being more than Woodard bargained for professionally.

“I thought I could continue working as a dietitian in Italy, but there was no reciprocity with any of my education,” she said.

Although struggling to practice her profession, Woodard had plenty to celebrate at home. She married Derrick in 2012, and they welcomed their first daughter Hailey that same year.

The whirlwind continued in 2013 when Derrick was told he was to return to the United States. Hopeful of working again in the U.S., Woodard relocated with her family.

Unfortunately, her reciprocity woes continued.

“I had a lot of challenges trying to practice,” she said. “I got all of my German documents translated, then sent them to multiple accreditation agencies and they were shredded. Everyone was telling me I couldn’t do it.”

The unending obstacles caused her to reevaluate her situation.

“I was determined to prove them wrong and to be heard. The system didn’t seem right, but I wanted to show I was capable of working. I felt like I was waiting for a helping hand to get me there,” Woodard said.

She found that helping hand at Kansas State University Global Campus.

“If my German education wouldn’t work here, I decided I’d go back to school,” she said. “While I was looking for programs, I knew it had to be online because of our military status. We also had our daughter, so I needed something to fit my schedule.”

Flexibility wasn’t K-State’s only draw for her.

“Global Campus stood out because it seemed like the most prestigious and hardest to get into. I knew if I was going to do this, I was going to do it the right way, not just the easy way,” Woodard said.

Her go-getter attitude not only helped her get into the program, but propelled her forward as an overachiever. During her studies, Woodard worked as a dietetic technician, volunteered with various organizations, had more military-related moves, welcomed their second daughter Skylar in 2016, stayed sane and planned out her days precisely.

“I literally had every minute of my days scheduled,” she said. “To juggle kid transportation, study times, exams, work, classes and volunteering, it was a must. I’d tell anyone doing an online program to do the same.”

When asked about additional advice for prospective students, Woodard didn’t skip a beat.

“Go to K-State!” she said. “From the beginning, I felt like I was a member of the family, like I was part of something bigger than myself. Honestly, it kind of took me off guard at first.”

An admiration for her professors and K-State’s staff was also a highlight for Woodard.

“Each person who taught me had an involvement in dietetics, nutrition or research, and a true passion they passed to their students,” she said. “Maybe more importantly, no professor will give up on you. If you reach out, they’ll be there. Everyone wants to see you succeed.”

And succeed she has. Woodard graduated in fall 2019 with two degrees: a bachelor’s in dietetics and a bachelor’s in human nutrition. Her cumulative GPA was 3.8, and she was selected to be her graduation ceremony’s commencement speaker — the first online student to receive the honor from the College of Health and Human Sciences.

“Being chosen to speak was truly an honor, and visiting the campus was a dream,” she said. “To meet everyone and connect with them without a screen was special.”

The trip to Manhattan solidified Woodard’s relationship with her professors, many of whom were glad to spend extra time with their visiting student.

Today, Woodard is continuing her pursuit of practicing as a registered dietitian in the United States, proving the naysayers wrong. And she is still a Global Campus student, now pursuing her master’s in nutrition, dietetics and sensory sciences.

Beyond working toward the same professional success in the United States as she had in Germany, Woodard wants to forge a path for others.

“We need to have more reciprocity between countries in this field,” she said. “We’re all passionate about helping patients, and most of us have similar education. To help as many people as possible, this has to change. No one else should need to repeat their schooling.”

While she hopes to change the system, she’s grateful her experience has made her part of the K-State family and allowed her to set an example for others.

“There are no limits,” she said. “You can do what others tell you isn’t possible.”

Interested in giving back? You can help support students like Claudia Woodard by contributing to K-State Global Campus foundation funds, which support student scholarships and online learning. If you are interested, learn more. If you would like to visit about giving back, you may contact Melinda Sinn, alumni and external relations coordinator at sinnpio@k-state.edu.