“Ken’s natural leadership abilities shone within the classroom,” said Dr. Allison Cammer (PhD), assistant professor in nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). “He was an active participant in all class discussions and activities, putting his natural curiosity and passion for connecting with people to good use.”
But it was Ken’s experiences outside of the classroom that helped create a rich and fulfilling experience during his time at USask.
Ken became interested in creating social media content when he noticed gaps in online health information and education, and has been active on his own social media and with formal projects. One recent project was Eating Pulses Improves Cardiometabolic (EPIC) Health, which is an evidence-based resource for pulse-based recipes and provided Ken the opportunity to demonstrate his enthusiasm for nutrition on video.
“I like to have fun and I like when other people have fun, so I saw the opportunity to help other people enjoy learning,” explained Ken. “I’ve connected with dietitians and students all over the world who want to start creating content.”
Ken also connected with people in person by volunteering with OUTSaskatoon and the Nutrition Professional Enhancement Club, and he founded and was co-president of a plant-based eating student group on campus.
“Ken’s compassion, paired with his critical thinking skills, make him a leader in nutrition and dietetics,” added Dr. Cammer.
Ken’s growth over the last four years hasn’t only been professional. During his nutrition degree, he took a big step forward in a personal journey which continues to this day.
“When I started this degree, I presented as a woman, and now I’m ending it as a man. I’ve been transitioning from female to male,” explained Ken.
It wasn’t an easy decision to come out as a trans man, as many people face challenges and discrimination when they do so.
“It was tough to come out and the journey hasn’t been easy, but my classmates were supportive and cheered me on, while expressing gratitude for demonstrating how to be inclusive and affirming to trans people.”
Ken hopes to inspire more students to accept diversity, and to help more queer and trans students to become dietitians.
“A lot of people have reached out to me, some of them out and some not, and have said they’re happy to see a queer person in the field and know they’re not alone.”
Ken was chosen as valedictorian for the nutrition class of 2021 in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, in a vote by his classmates. The nutrition valedictorian is selected by popular vote at the end of the third year of the program before the students begin their fourth-year practicums.
“The first things that pop into my head when I think of Ken are his enthusiasm, his willingness to help others, and his love for weird food combinations,” said classmate Cheska Daguio.
According to the guidelines, the nutrition valedictorian is someone who has demonstrated professionalism, leadership, and academic achievement; and they have connected with their classmates as friends and colleagues.
“Over the years we have shared many laughs as we sat in the front row of our classes, shared food and flung origami ninja stars to one another,” continued Daguio. “Although classes are done and everyone is going into different directions with their jobs, having a friend like Ken is something I will cherish for long after our convocation.”
Now that Ken has completed his nutrition degree, he plans on fulfilling the requirements to become a registered dietitian and is starting a new position as a trans health navigator.
While it’s not a traditional job for a dietitian, Ken is honoured to be able to help trans people access community supports and health-care providers to address their unique health-care needs. He’ll also help providers become educated on providing trans health care and will continue to produce social media content.“Now that I’m going to be a dietitian, I want to create more social media content, be an activist for my community and one day start my own practice.”