Innovation and Collaboration: Creating a Transdisciplinary Childhood Obesity Prevention Graduate Program (TOP) is a program that provides experiential learning and research opportunities to graduate students in a variety of fields, all focusing on childhood obesity. The program, which began in 2012, provides a TOP certificate upon graduation in addition to the student’s regular Master’s or Doctoral degree. To achieve this end, the program offers core graduate courses taught by faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and South Dakota State University (SDSU) in childhood obesity and research methods. In total, 50 students received the TOP certificate by 2016, including 28 from SDSU and 22 from UNL. The majority of TOP graduates received their degrees in the fields of nutrition and exercise science, with additional representation from family and human sciences, counseling, nursing, and plant science/statistics.
In total, 50 students received the TOP certificate by 2016, including 28 from SDSU and 22 from UNL. The majority of TOP graduates received their degrees in the fields of nutrition and exercise science, with additional representation from family and human sciences, counseling, nursing, and plant science/statistics. Overall, the primary goal to develop an innovative, research-based graduate education program that includes transdisciplinary experiential research training in the field of childhood obesity prevention was successful met. As a result of TOP research activities, several presentations and publications were produced, including 31 abstracts, 26 peer-reviewed publications, 31 oral presentations, and 35 poster presentations. The overwhelming majority of alumni reported that the TOP program helped prepare them for their current professional positions in some way for their current position. Furthermore, nearly half of TOP alumni reported utilizing their ability to collaborate with transdisciplinary teams in their current position.
The TOP program evaluation was conducted by the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Consortium, in conjunction with the Bureau of Sociological Research at UNL. The purpose was to assess the effectiveness of the TOP program in fulfilling its proposed goals. Evaluation data, collected from 2012 through 2016, included: (1) student focus groups, (2) course evaluations with the TOP core class students, (3) exit interviews with TOP students who completed the program, and (4) alumni surveys with TOP graduates.