Having spent some time in Australia working as an au pair, and in Germany working in Marketing, Leonie Tuxhorn knew she wanted to purse her passion for nutrition and secure a degree in this specialist subject. Attracted by the opportunity to study at a small, welcoming and supportive university in Scotland’s capital city, Leonie moved from her hometown in Germany to enrol in the BSc (Hons) Nutrition at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. During her four years on the course, she maximised every opportunity to expand her knowledge, develop her skills and build her leadership abilities. This involved making the most of her course placement, getting involved in nutrition related work opportunities, securing scholarships and taking an active role in University focus groups and committees. Leonie’s willingness to get involved in initiatives over and above her degree course goes beyond CV enhancement and the acquisition of transferable skills. Her ambitious attitude towards self-development and career enhancement will allow her to stand head and shoulders above other graduates when entering the job market, and to develop as a future leader in the field of nutrition.  

Leonie discusses the University’s supportive culture, her experience of the nutrition course, and some of the many opportunities she has taken to further develop her skills and experience.  

Why did you choose to study nutrition at QMU? 

My decision to study BSc (Hons) Nutrition at Queen Margaret University (QMU) in 2020 was not unilateral. After spending two years working in marketing, and as an au pair in Australia, the small size of the university offered a comfortable transition back into academia. The approachability and warmth in the communication from QMU's Student Services team was particularly reassuring during the initial uncertainty brought on by the onset of COVID-19. QMU’s support has been unwavering over the last four years, evident in every corner of university life - from the dedication of academic staff to the continuous assistance provided by Student Services and the Student’s union. This holistic nurturing environment convinced me that QMU was the right place for me to pursue my passion for Nutrition and move to a completely foreign country at one of the most uncertain periods of public life. 

What have been your favourite parts of the course? 

"My favourite aspects of the BSc (Hons) Nutrition course at Queen Margaret University lie in its rich tapestry of learning experiences. The diverse perspectives on nutrition presented throughout the modules have been intellectually stimulating, offering a well-rounded understanding of the field of nutrition, sustainability, and public health."

The course's structure, which seamlessly integrates practical applications of theoretical knowledge, has been particularly engaging. The benefit of a small class learning environment fostered a close-knit, supportive community, allowing for more personalised interactions with peers and staff. Furthermore, the open-mindedness of the staff, and their willingness to act on student feedback, created a dynamic and responsive learning atmosphere that has enhanced my educational journey over the last four years. 

Tell us about your experience of the course placement?  

"The placement module offered by Queen Margaret University's Nutrition undergraduate course, not commonly available at all universities, was a profoundly enriching experience. It allowed me to tailor the placement to my interests and career ambitions."

This flexibility led to an extraordinary opportunity to work with the research charity Think through Nutrition, the UK’s leading voice on the link between nutrition, brain health and behaviour. This opportunity not only opened doors for my future, but also enabled me to continue as part of the team to this day, with the prospect of strengthening this relationship further. During the placement, I gained invaluable insights into the nuances of communicating effectively with diverse individuals and groups, which involved adapting to different ages, health literacies, and backgrounds. I also had the chance to support the design of a nutrition education platform, which is to be tested as part of a research project. This experience has been instrumental in enhancing my practical skills and professional development and allowing me to apply my theoretical knowledge to live projects. 

How have you found the support of academic staff? 

"The support from QMU’s academic staff has been exceptionally satisfactory. They consistently demonstrated a commitment to student development by actively seeking out feedback and responding to it in meaningful ways. Their reassurance and dedication to making sustainable improvements have greatly enhanced my learning experience. This open and responsive approach has not only fostered a supportive educational environment, but has also instilled a sense of collaboration and mutual respect between students and staff, which has been deeply appreciated throughout my academic journey."

What other opportunities has QMU offered you to enhance your employability and student experience? 

"Queen Margaret University has provided an array of opportunities that have been pivotal in enhancing both my employability and student experience. In my second year, I was accepted to the Santander Universities summer scholarship to collaborate with Starcatchers, and in my third year, I continued to expand my practical knowledge during the Santander summer scholarship with Think through Nutrition. This exposure to real-world applications of my studies has been invaluable and gave a real purpose to the long summer breaks."

As a member of various senior committees and focus groups, including the Student Experience Committee and the Student Experience Strategy team, I have been able to actively contribute to the shaping of the University's future. Additionally, serving as a panellist for various programme validation events has allowed me to ensure that academic standards are maintained and that new programmes meet the needs of future students. 

Leading as President of the QMU food pantry, I have worked to address food insecurity among students, which has been both a challenging and rewarding experience. My role as an ambassador during the introduction of the new learning platform Canvas has further developed my leadership and communication skills. 

Participating in the Curious Club journal clubs has allowed for evidence-based discussions of contemporary nutrition topics, sharpening my critical thinking and research skills. The workshops offered by Converge have been instrumental in fostering an entrepreneurial mindset, encouraging innovative thinking and problem-solving abilities. 

"The UK101 Leadership course by Common Purpose and Know You More not only honed my leadership skills, but also led to a coaching accreditation with Know You More, preparing me for a future where coaching and leadership intersect with my passion for nutrition. These experiences have collectively shaped a robust foundation for my future career, ensuring that I am well-equipped with the skills, knowledge, and experience to excel in the professional world."

What do you plan to do after graduation? 

Upon graduation, I am excited to embark on a Master’s programme in Behavioural Sciences and Neuropsychology. This next academic step will allow me to intertwine the intricate knowledge of nutrition with the profound insights of psychological and behavioural strategies, to effectively support clients in achieving their goals. Concurrently, I will continue my work with Think through Nutrition over the summer, further solidifying my practical skills and understanding of the field of brain health and nutrition education. Additionally, I am shadowing a registered nutritionist who specialises in Neuroscience and Behaviour change in her practice over summer, which promises to be a transformative experience. This journey aligns with my aspiration to become a pivotal part of the evolving landscape where nutrition secures physical and mental health through sustainable behaviour change with the ambitious aim to make a meaningful impact on people's lives. 

Sum up your course in three words. 

Multidimensional, hands-on, evidence-based