Trae Cown

Trae Cown

Alumni Office, Nutritional Sciences

Double Dawg enjoying a fulfilling career in school nutrition


BSFCS Dietetics 2011, M.S. Nutrition 2013

Current occupation/Location

I am currently a compliance specialist for the Georgia Department of Education School Nutrition Division. Our office is based out of Atlanta, but I mostly work from a field-based office here in Athens.   My primary responsibilities include providing technical assistance for School Nutrition Program operators throughout the state so that they are informed about USDA regulatory requirements, and I also monitor programs to ensure that federal and state requirements are being met in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. 

What has been your proudest accomplishment since graduating?

Working my way up to the Georgia Department of Education has been a rewarding accomplishment. I began my career as a School Nutrition Coordinator in a mid-size district with 35 schools. After getting some experience in the field, I became a director in a small district with only five schools. Having local level experience has been vital to providing effective assistance to districts in my current position because I am more aware and empathetic to the day-to-day challenges that program operators face. 

What was your favorite class in FACS?

Ironically, my favorite class(es) would have to be Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT).  I say ironic because I use the knowledge that I gained from these the least in my job, and sadly that also means that my retention of the knowledge is always diminishing. I loved learning how nutrition impacts our physiologic functions and how they interact with each other. 

Did you have a favorite – or most memorable – faculty member?

I had lots of positive and memorable interactions with many of the faculty members while I was in FACS, particularly at the graduate level. Dr. Barbara Grossman is always a standout though. If she had not placed me in Hall County for my school nutrition rotation, I am not sure I would have landed on the career path that I took. Her door was always open, and she was an unofficial mentor for all of the dietetic interns. I also had the privilege to cook latkes at her annual Hanukkah party and was honored to be able to speak at her retirement celebration. 

How do you think FACS prepared you for your career success?

Since school Nntrition is a partner in the Department of Education, there is a School Nutrition Director Certification that is granted by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, who also oversees educator certificates. The courses needed to become certified are only available through UGA, which is highly convenient for anyone who is currently a student that is interested in a career in school nutrition.  I highly recommend anyone interested looking into the necessary classes early so they can be certified by the time they graduate.   

What inspires or motivates you?

I enjoy assisting and mentoring others in school nutrition. My chief responsibility is providing assistance to internal and external customers. I frequently get calls from districts with regulatory questions, and as a federal program, there is a lot of information to keep track of. I enjoy working one-on-one with directors to help them find realistic solutions that allow them to operate their programs successfully while continuing to meet the requirements of the program. 

What advice would you give a current FACS student looking to pursue a career in your field?

Do not sleep on school nutrition as a career opportunity.  I never considered it myself until I was in my intern rotation. I was fortunate enough to be hired by the School Nutrition Program that I interned with. The benefits are great, and in Georgia you can receive teachers retirement. There is also lots of day to day variety and opportunities for upward growth and promotion in the field. We are always eager to bring more dietitians into the field, but RD is not a requirement. Having any nutrition or foodservice management education will help get your foot in the door.  

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