SNSW congratulates Spring 2023 Outstanding Senior James H. Altizer (Nutritional Sciences - Arizona Online)

May 13, 2023

“I want to be able to help others, and at the same time, I need to provide for my family, and getting my degree in nutrition gives me the opportunity to do both.”

James H. Altizer joined the army at age 33 as a way to make a better life for his family. The Virginia native soon realized that he wanted to build a career in the armed services, and in order to reach his goals, he’d need to go back to school.

“I wanted to become a commissioned officer, a medical officer,” he said. “I found out that I could be a dietitian for the army, and since health and fitness are big passions in my life, a career in dietetics seemed like a great fit.”

Altizer knew he’d need to pursue his degree online while he continued with his service, which led him to Arizona Online. “The U of A is one of the only colleges to offer an online degree plan that meets the requirements for dietetics,” he explained. “So it was kind of a no-brainer. And it worked out well for me, since I could do it at my own pace and get my assignments done around my schedule.”

Earning a degree online did come with challenges, though, especially since Altizer and his family – including a newborn daughter – were stationed in Hawaii at the time. “It was a lot of late nights, a lot of sleepless nights for me and my family,” he recalled. “It was a challenge to balance everything as someone on active duty and taking classes online full time.”

Altizer credits his professors with helping him overcome those challenges and earn his degree. “I can’t say enough good things about all the professors I’ve had at the U of A,” he said. “They really went above and beyond to accommodate my schedule, and it really helped me. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been successful.”

Though the work was hard, Altizer says he enjoyed his studies immensely. “I know a lot of people struggle with classes like biochemistry and organic chemistry, but I thought they were a lot of fun,” he said. “And we had this project in my food service class where we had to put together a pitch for a food truck concept, which I really enjoyed. Also, I got to go into the community as a volunteer and get hands-on experience for my community nutrition class, which I liked, too.”

Altizer has been accepted into the army’s commissioning program, which will help him earn the graduate degree he’ll need to become a registered dietitian. Then, he’ll use his expertise to support his fellow soldiers. “A lot of what I’ll be doing is helping to keep the soldiers where they need to be, physically,” he said. “Helping others reach their goals and gain in confidence is something I really want to do.”