Ph.D. in Nutrition and Food Systems

Introduction and Overview

The Doctor of Philosophy in Nutrition and Food Systems is designed to prepare individuals for teaching and research positions in universities, administrative positions in institutional food service programs, and research positions in the public and private sectors.  The areas of food service and applied nutrition are integrated into a unique graduate program that allows either a general or a more specialized approach to the subject matter areas.

  • Students may elect a comprehensive program for practice in settings where nutrition and food service management are equally important (such as child nutrition or healthcare management).  Students also may select either applied nutrition or food service management as an area of emphasis while developing a broad understanding of both.  The course of study is planned individually; faculty advisors review academic background and professional experience in their efforts to help each student articulate specific career goals and select appropriate courses to help meet those goals.
  • The program offers an excellent faculty-student ratio, thus providing students the personal attention and the guidance they need to facilitate both the educational process and the successful transition from classroom to professional setting.  Faculty members’ extensive involvement in professional organizations enhances students’ opportunities to develop support networks.
  • The Ph.D. in Nutrition and Food Systems is closely integrated with the active nutrition and food systems research agenda at The University of Southern Mississippi.
    • A National Institutes of Health funded initiative focuses on improving health status of health disparate populations in Mississippi through community based participatory research.  The Department of Nutrition and Food Systems collaborates with its partner, the city of Hattiesburg, to address cardiovascular health through a neighborhood walking program initially developed and tested in the Mississippi Delta. 
    • The Applied Research Division, National Food Service Management Institute is a national research unit funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct research to improve the general operation and quality of Child Nutrition Programs such as the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Child and Adult Care Food Programs.
    • The Delta Nutrition Obesity Prevention Research Program is a consortium of six universities funded by and in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, to prevent obesity in the Lower Mississippi Delta region of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana through research in nutrition and intervention methodology. 
    • Other research addressing health disparities focuses on food insecurity, food accessibility and affordability in rural regions, the role of nutrition literacy in adopting dietary guidelines recommendations. 
  • The PhD in Nutrition and Food Systems prepares its students to understand and address the unique needs and challenges to which the efforts of the NFSMI and its health disparities research are directed.  The University of Southern Mississippi through the NFSMI-ARD is the principal institution conducting research on issues relevant to Child Nutrition Program management in the United States.  Nutrition and Food Systems students develop competencies in core areas such as food and nutrition public policy that are highly relevant to management and policy issues facing Child Nutrition Programs in the U.S.  Graduates of the Ph.D. in Nutrition and Food Systems, educated in nutrition intervention methodology and nutrition care of at-risk populations, are able to address the needs of the residents of the Lower Mississippi Delta and similar populations.
  • Nutrition and Food Systems students and graduates have attained national recognition for their achievements.  Students have received scholarships and grants from national professional associations and research agencies to fund their research and graduate study.  Other achievements of students and graduates include invited presentations at national and regional research meetings, the awarding of the New Researcher Award from the American Dietetic Association, and published abstracts, monographs, journal articles and presentations at national meetings.Admission

 Admission Requirements

  • Applicants must satisfy the University of Southern Mississippi’s Admission
    Requirements and Procedures for admission to Doctoral Programs. These are
    published each year in the Graduate Bulletin. The Graduate Bulletin is available
  • In addition, the Ph.D. program applicant must meet the following requirements:
    Completion of a master’s degree and specific prerequisite courses based on the
    area of program emphasis chosen by the applicant.
  • Applicants choosing to emphasize Food Service Management must have
    completed the following prerequisites: food service management, quantity
    foods, management, normal/general nutrition, life cycle nutrition, and
    univariate statistics.
  • Applicants choosing to emphasize Applied Nutrition must have completed the
    following prerequisites: general, organic and biochemistry; advanced nutrition
    (nutritional biochemistry/metabolism), anatomy and physiology, food service
    management, and univariate statistics.
  • A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale is required on
    previous graduate work.
  • Scores from General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations, verbal,
    quantitative, and analytical writing, are required as part of the application.
    (Consult GRE website for information on registering to take the GRE.)
  • An up-to-date curriculum vita or resume is required as part of the application.
    Two years or more of professional experience in nutrition, food service
    management, or a related area is preferred but not required.
  • A letter of application is required for admission. The application letter should
    state the intent to emphasize Food Service Management, Applied Nutrition, or
    both, should include career goals and reasons for pursuing the Ph.D., and should
    indicate how previous education and work experience have prepared the
    individual to pursue the Ph.D.
  • Three letters of recommendation are required for admission, from professionals
    who can comment on the applicant’s professional competence and readiness for
    doctoral work.
  • An interview with the graduate faculty in Nutrition and Food Systems is required for admission. This interview can take place by telephone or in person.
  • Applicants whose native language is other than English must present a minimum TOEFL score of 550 or the equivalent on the computer assisted TOEFL. International students must follow International Admission procedures and requirements.

 Admission Procedures

  • Complete an online application to The Graduate School. Or obtain a hard copy from and submit to Graduate Admissions, 118 College Dr. # 5024, the University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406. International students must apply through the International Admissions office. Follow links for Future Students, and then International.
  • Complete the General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations and request that scores be forwarded to the University of Southern Mississippi.
  • Request that official transcripts from all institutions attended be forwarded to Graduate Admissions, 118 College Dr. #5024, The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406. International applicants forward to International Admissions, 118 College Dr. #5151, the University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406.
  • Submit a letter of application and a current resume or curriculum vitae to Chair, Department of Nutrition and Food Systems, 118 College Drive #5172, Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5172.
  • Request three letters of recommendation from professionals including former professors who can comment on the applicant’s professional competence and readiness for doctoral work. Visit the Graduate Admissions website to obtain a letter of recommendation form. Have letters sent directly to the Chair, Nutrition and Food Systems, 118 College Drive #5172, The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406 (International students submit to International Student Affairs, USM, 118 College Dr. # 5151, Hattiesburg, MS 39406).
  • Contact Department Chair to schedule an interview (telephone or in-person) with NFS faculty. This interview takes place after all application materials have been received at USM.

Review of application

The Graduate Admissions committee reviews the complete application packet, and evaluates the applicant’s GRE scores, GPA for M.S. degree, research preparation, prerequisite courses, letters of recommendation, curriculum vitae, letter of application, and interview using a standard evaluation metric. Based on the rating of each of these components, a summary admission score is determined, and a recommendation is made by the committee for regular, conditional, or deny admission. (Note: Graduate Admissions requires a minimum GPA on previous graduate coursework of 3.25 for conditional admission). A formal admission recommendation of regular, conditional, or non-admit is made in turn by the department chair, the Dean of the College of Health, and the Office of Graduate School. The Office of Graduate Studies notifies the applicant of his/her admission status.


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