The Collegian
Thursday, May 23, 2024

Campus dietitian helps students with nutrition needs

<p>Campus dietician Karen Hensley poses for a portrait in her office.&nbsp;</p>

Campus dietician Karen Hensley poses for a portrait in her office. 

The University of Richmond’s registered dietitian Karen Hensley wears a lot of hats. 

Hensley received her undergraduate degree in psychology and was a student athlete when she developed an interest in nutrition. She decided to pursue this interest after her undergraduate years and earned her master's in sports nutrition at the University of Connecticut. 

Hensley has worked with athletes and in student health at Princeton University and Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been at UR for the past nine years. 

Hensley is the only dietitian on campus and is open for one-on-one appointments with all students, faculty members and staff members. Additionally, she works with the menu-planning committee and chefs to plan the menus prepared for the dinning hall. 

Hensley also works closely with students with special dietary needs and students with food allergies, gives team talks to student-athletes and serves as a guest speaker in wellness classes. She works most closely with athletics, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Student Health Center. 

Hensley said that mainly students contact her. She actively makes appearances during first-year orientation and deans will refer her to different students or organizations. She also said that students meet with her very often -- at least once a week -- and it is a constant flow of appointments. 

Sean Menges, senior, has met with Hensley as a member of the men's lacrosse team. 

“I met with Karen because, as an athlete, I had a goal of gaining 10 pounds of muscle and my diet was part of the equation that was lacking,” he said.  

In their meeting, Menges said they had discussed his nutrition goals and Hensley had created a personalized meal plan based on his workout schedule, class schedule and what kind of food he enjoyed. Overall, Menges concluded that Hensley had been very accommodating as well as successful in reaching and maintaining goals. 

"She has also worked with our entire men's lacrosse team last fall and spoke to the entire team about certain diet habits that would help daily nutrition," Menges said.

Women's basketball forward Amy Duggan, senior, has also worked with Hensley. 

“I met with the nutritionist, as well as my teammates, because it was mandatory to schedule an appointment to talk about our nutritional intake and what we were going to do in regards to planning when to eat and what is the best thing to eat so we could maximize our energy and performance with basketball," Duggan said. 

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Duggan said her experience with Hensley had been helpful because many elements within nutrition were new to her and she hadn't realized how many times a day she should be eating.

Within Hensley’s position on campus, it is common to face challenges. The biggest challenge she said she faced here was providing a varied menu that appeals to all the students. 

"It is difficult to please everyone on campus in terms of food being served in the dining hall," Hensley said. 

She added that students have a lot of freedom to be creative at UR, as the chefs get creative with their cooking and there is a good balance of food on campus.

Hensley said her biggest affect had been within Dining Services, where she had taken a more integral role within menu planning with the new executive chef. Hensley added that the staff was working together as a team to provide healthier food options on campus. 

Because Hensley has held nutritionist positions at other universities, she compared UR's dietary options and the help offered with what is at other institutions. She mentioned that dietitians were showing up on more college and university campuses, as they are extremely important to have at all education institutions. 

Hensley also addressed UR and the health services provided on campus. She shared that she believed UR did a good job of providing health services, especially with the plans for the new health services building.

“Everyone will be under one roof with so many resources and programs," Hensley said. "The programs keep getting better."  

To make an appointment with Hensley, email her at

Contact lifestyle writer Dylan Ramer at 

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