Date of Award

Winter 3-2-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Food Science

First Advisor

Simone Camel


A Common Reader Program, also called a common book, summer reading, or a one-book program, has been reported to enhance the college educational experience yet appears to have been underutilized by colleges and universities. In the case of health sciences, there can be great benefits in having students learn from the literature not typically found in textbooks used in the curricula. Common reader programs allow for different teaching methods to be implemented and using multiple teaching methods in a single program can be beneficial. In nutrition and dietetics (ND) programs there is a need for additional education regarding sustainability in our food systems and healthcare processes, and this could be done using common reader programs. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations states that a sustainable food system can provide food security and nutrition for all, while keeping the economic, social, and environmental bases uncompromised for future generations (FAO, 2018). Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) should proactively transform food systems by facilitating population-wide shifts to have individuals partake in more healthy and sustainable diets (Barbour et al., 2022). The ND programs at Louisiana Tech University have initiated an annual focused common book program that began one academic year before this study. More research is needed to determine if this program is beneficial to the students to help aid in any future decisions regarding program participation. The purpose of this quantitative, exploratory intervention research design was to evaluate the benefits of using a common book program for ND students focusing on sustainability in food systems and health care delivery. Specifically, gains in knowledge, confidence, and positions toward sustainability in the nutrition profession. This study utilized a retrospective post-then-pre-study design and a purposive, convenience sampling strategy for participants of ND majors currently enrolled at Louisiana Tech University at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Focused recruitment was on ND majors enrolled in FNU 480 (Senior Seminar), FNU 592 (Intern in Nutrition-Dietetics), and FNU 299 (Research for Nutrition Professionals). The online questionnaire included 33 items. Participants were given the chosen common book “There is No Planet B” by Mike Berners-Lee, made available through an Entergy Micro Grant, and encouraged to attend the nine planned campus events and activities around the topic of sustainability. Approximately 65 students were eligible to participate, and there were a total of 35 respondents. The majority of respondents were female (82.90%), white, non-Hispanic (80.00%), and had an upperclassman, junior or senior, academic standing (62.86%). Seventeen respondents received academic credit for program participation. Almost half of the respondents (45.70%) considered themselves “moderately familiar” with the topic of sustainability before participating in the program. The media was the highest contributor to prior familiarity (60.00%). There were 16 respondents (45.70%) who only read the sections required for their course from the common book, four respondents (11.40%) read the entire book, and five respondents (14.30%) did not read the book. On average, all five mandatory events for academic credit had a 38.86% participation rate, while the four voluntary events had 20.00%. The correlation between the program participation (events and book), total gains, and total position scores were more neutral with no statistical significance. An average of 41.43% of the respondents reported a good to great gain in the items regarding their knowledge of sustainability after completing the program. The mean total position score of 1.19 + 0.15 indicates an agreeable position toward all statements regarding sustainability. A total of 65.71% of the respondents would encourage ND students to engage in the common book program. Of the 30 responses to the question of whether participation developed a new understanding of sustainability in food systems, 26 responses (86.7%) were positive and four responses (13.3%) were negative. Prior research on common book programs was focused on students of different declared majors than ND, or students with a freshman academic standing in post-secondary, degree-granting institutions. The ND Common Book Program at Louisiana Tech University can be assumed as one of the few programs that gear their focus towards ND majors and upperclassmen academic standing based on the lack of literature. It was found that the ND Common Book Program was beneficial and provided a gain in knowledge, confidence, and position toward sustainability in food systems for students attending Louisiana Tech University.