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College of Health Solutions graduate's long journey gave her a new perspective

College of Health Solutions graduate Haley Barrong

College of Health Solutions graduate Haley Barrong is looking forward to a career as a dietitian.

April 30, 2024

By Aidan Hansen

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

In 2015, Oregon-born Haley Barrong graduated with her bachelor’s degree in dietetics. She applied for the nutrition master’s program at the College of Health Solutions, but never heard back.

Seven years later, she found out the application had never been sent. This led Barrong to apply for the 2022 year, and she was accepted. 

“I suddenly had a lot more hope for the 2022 application cycle because one of the biggest reasons I had been using to not return to the field was suddenly undone, and I had so much more confidence in my application,” Barrong said.

During the break in her studies, Barrong began working as an academic success advisor for ASU. When she enrolled in graduate studies with the nutrition program, she switched from full-time to part-time to work at ASU.

“I worked every weekend and most week-night evenings for the last 6 months, which I found was just physically exhausting more than anything, and there were professional and personal opportunities I had to sacrifice to make things work,” Barrong said. 

She also interned at nine different institutions over the course of getting her master’s degree, but the hard work gave her a different perspective.

“I found that my two roles (working and interning) ended up having a synergistic effect on each other, and I’m so grateful for the experience I had,” Barrong said. “In the end, I’ve been so, so grateful for all opportunities and I wouldn’t change a thing if given the chance to do it over.”

Barrong accepted a position with Mayo Clinic where she interned for 458 hours. She will be the newest dietitian at the clinic.

“Getting this job at Mayo Clinic, in a role that I’m giddy and honored to start, has been exactly the confirmation I needed that this was the right path for me. It was all worth it,” Barrong said.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I grew up in a very food-aware family given that my grandfather was a Type 1 diabetic and we were all athletes, so I’d always had an interest in nutrition. All of that came together as wanting to switch to study nutrition. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I was in love with the campus, the big-city feel, and it was some intangible feeling of “Oh, I have to go here.” I’ve always been a very independent person, so getting out to a new city was always the goal. I’m from Eugene, Oregon, I wanted a big university, I wanted to live in a big city and ASU just met everything I was looking for.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I’ve learned that questions are usually the best answer. Staying curious about someone and their perspective can often better solve problems and make people feel more seen than any perfectly crafted piece of advice can. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Carol Johnston. My mom passed away about two weeks after classes started in August 2022. Carol taught me that while school is important, taking care of myself and my family, and not letting school get in the way of those most important things, deserved to be prioritized.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Several of us overlapped and worked together at the Wexford Lab downtown while we were working on our research. It was special to be in that space, feeling like I was a part of something bigger than just myself.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would say simply to approach every experience and interaction as if it’s happening for a reason, always looking for growth or joy in even the hard days. Reach out for and take advantage of every opportunity available to you and see what happens. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to relax a bit and then start the new job soon after! I have a few vacations planned and slow weekends to rest before getting started, but ultimately I’m really, really excited to start working and put everything I’ve learned into practice. I love it.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I feel like every podcast and article being put in front of me by the algorithm has been refocusing on climate change recently. I would want to put my money toward that in some way, but maybe toward developing more sustainable food systems if I were to stay in my nutrition lane a bit.

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