Biochemistry major becomes professor of nutrition

Community-oriented foundation leads Sarah Jones ’04 to a job she loves

May 19, 2020   /  

Sarah Jones ’04 took a winding path to her current position as an assistant professor in the department of nutrition and dietetics at Dominican University right outside of Chicago, Illinois. “One thing I tell my students is there’s no right path and that everyone has their own path to get to their dream job. There’s been a lot of steps along the way,” Jones said.

Sarah Jones ’04
Sarah Jones ’04

As someone who grew up playing sports, nutrition was always important to Jones. She played tennis and basketball at Wooster and minored in physical education. When she was deciding on a major, Jones was drawn to biochemistry because of its connection to nutrition. “I love the application to a person’s body that biochemistry has,” Jones said. “Biochemistry is the study of carbohydrates and proteins and fats and how they process in their body. And that seemed so applicable to me and made sense so that kind of steered me in that right direction.” However, it was not an easy major for her. Jones remembered that chemistry classes in particular were challenging, but that the professors in the department were remarkably supportive. “I was trying so hard, doing every study group, seeing tutors, and just trying everything and sometimes things just didn’t click, and I just felt like they never gave up hope,” she said. Her professors recognized the growth that came from her hard work, which Jones said was a testament to Wooster’s strong, individualized teaching.

After graduating from Wooster, Jones worked as a summer camp counselor, a program coordinator for a parks and recreation department, and a tennis instructor. Returning to her interest in nutrition, she completed a master’s in nutrition from the University of Akron. Jones then taught a few classes in the Akron program, in addition to working as the dietician at the Wooster Community Hospital. Because Jones so enjoyed her time at the College, she said that it was rewarding “to give back to the Wooster community in that way.” During this time, she also picked up a part-time job working in after-school programming at the YMCA in Akron. Unexpectedly, it was her experience at the YMCA, in conjunction with her training as a dietician, that made her qualified for a job in a project at Case Western Reserve University working with overweight and obese middle school children. “I always tell my students that no job you do is too small because I would never in a million years guess that working in the YMCA in after-school programming would get me a job that I had for almost a decade,” Jones said. She was also able to work on her Ph.D. part-time at Case Western and graduated with her doctorate last May. “I know that my academic experience at Wooster was what prepared me to complete both my master’s and Ph.D. at strong institutions,” Jones said.

When she started looking for teaching jobs, Jones was particularly drawn to schools similar to Wooster. “Because of my experience at Wooster I loved the idea of teaching at a small liberal arts kind of institution versus a big research institution,” she said. “I love teaching and love getting to know students.” While Jones’ Wooster professors had a profound impact on her, her basketball and assistant tennis coach Lisa Campanell Komara, who now coaches women’s golf at the College, was her biggest mentor on campus. Jones took Campanell Komara’s coaching class at Wooster and said that “so many of the things we talked about in that class I use in my teaching and advising.”

Even though Jones didn’t necessarily expect to become a professor, in this position she is able to continue to maintain her commitment to fostering community that has been consistent throughout her many jobs. “I’m very much a team-oriented, community-oriented person. All of my jobs speak to that and where I landed,” Jones reflected. And it all started with the strong sense of community that she found at Wooster. “Wooster is always there for you, and it’s such a strong community,” Jones said. “I’m really happy that I had the opportunity to go there.”