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Human Nutrition’s inaugural MAppSc graduate

Monday, 17 August 2020

Tira and Jamie image
Tira Phillipson-Puna (right) and Otago Commerce and Physical Education Alumni Jamie Craig (left) on internship with The Blues last year.

As the inaugural graduate of the Master of Applied Science in Sport and Exercise Nutrition, Tira Phillipson-Puna is already putting his qualification to great use for high performance sports.

As the first graduate through the programme Tira, of Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga descent, says it’s an honour to be the first graduate highlighting a new pathway to reach a successful outcome in sports nutrition.

Tira was attracted to the applied degree to connect his interests in exercise physiology and how nutrition can fuel an athlete's performance.

“Studying for a Bachelor of Applied Sciences meant I could have the best of both worlds by learning through the Department of Human Nutrition as well as the School of Physical Education, Sports and Exercise Science,” Tira says.

After completing his undergraduate degree Tira went on to complete his Masters in Applied Science that included an eight-month internship with the Blues rugby team in Auckland.

“It was good to get an insight of how the elite sports environment operates, what it takes to fuel athletes at this level, and also how to communicate nutrition with this very targeted niche of athletes.”

He also says through his culture he is well placed to deal with Pasifika and Māori who often struggle with the nutritional aspects of high-performance sport.

“I think that often they feel more comfortable talking with me about their concerns which makes it easier to work through solutions in collaboration.”

Tira is now working as a sports nutritionist with North Harbour’s academy and women’s rugby teams, and is enjoying the opportunity to work independently and try things differently.

“It was good to get an insight of how the elite sports environment operates, what it takes to fuel athletes at this level, and also how to communicate nutrition with this very targeted niche of athletes.”

Director of Applied Nutrition and Dietetics Dr Katherine Black, one of Tira’s supervisors, says it has been a real pleasure seeing Tira grow and develop as he has applied his undergraduate studies to real-world applied settings, which is the main aim of this advanced degree.

“Tira worked hard and we have received excellent feedback about the skill set he has developed in terms of both nutrition and exercise science,” Dr Black says.

“Creating such a great impression during his placement has helped him successfully kick-start his career in sports nutrition, which in turn has provided a positive role model for future students.”

Since Tira first enrolled with the degree in 2018, the number of students undertaking the programme have risen dramatically to an enrolment of 35 students in 2020.

The Masters of Applied Science degree aims to be the stepping-stone from theory to real world application where students develop the skills and knowledge required practically in the workplace.

“Tira’s experience has highlighted the ability of students to complete their final placement to a high standard which can lead to potential employment opportunities.”

Due to the success of the programme to date leading to a range of nutritional careers, from 2021 the name of the major will change to Advanced Nutrition Practice.

Story by Guy Frederick, Communications Adviser (Sciences)