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Alumni Spotlight: Michelle Jaelin (BFA ’08)

Alumni Spotlight: Michelle Jaelin (BFA ’08)

Michelle Jaelin (BFA ’08) is a TV and media registered dietitian, founder, and content creator at The York alumna discusses her early career as an entrepreneur, and how her years as a student at York helped her bridge her love of the arts with nutrition.

Michelle Jaelin stands in a kitchen smiling at the camera. She is wearing a red apron over a blue and white polkadot dress.

Why did you decide to attend York University?

I was always interested in the arts and wanted to become an art teacher. York had both a great Fine Arts and education program, so it was an easy decision. I also received an entrance scholarship which was a big help.

You’ve shared that your years at York were formative in helping you bring together your love of art and nutrition. Can you tell us about that journey?

In my second year, I discovered that exercise was a tool to manage my own mental health struggles of depression and anxiety. That led me to be curious about health and explore if diet and nutrition could help me even more. In my fourth year, I secured the position of nutrition team lead in the Health Education & Promotion program in the Division of Students. Despite not coming from a health background, my supervisor hired me because of my ability to connect with peers through visual arts and creativity. At this time a book was released called Hungry Planet, which included photos of different food people eat around the world. I found it fascinating, and it inspired me to pursue a similar project at York as part of my health promotion role. I interviewed my peers, photographed what they ate in a day and compiled it into a presentation for Wellness Wednesday on campus. This was the first time I was able to combine my visual arts background with my interest in health education and it was pivotal in guiding me towards my career as a media dietitian and digital food content creator.

Looking beyond the classroom, did you participate in any clubs or student associations?

Yes, I was part of the first cohort for the Leadershape program back in 2008.  For those who aren’t familiar with the program, it is a retreat where you do team-building activities with your peers to help identify your own values and how to use them to make an impact in your community. In my experience, the instructors were fantastic and provided mentorship to the students. In many ways, it was instrumental in finding confidence in myself, in my passion and stepping out of my comfort zone by being authentically me.

From graduation to now, what has your career path looked like?

After graduation, I worked a few part-time jobs to support myself while pursuing further dietitian education and training and building my business on the side. I failed in my first attempt at the dietitian license exam and this taught me a lot about failure and the resilience I have within me. Since 2019, I’ve left my other part-time jobs and have been running my company, full time. As an entrepreneur, I work with brands to develop original food marketing content for digital media. I’m a TV nutrition expert on several stations including CP24, The Social CTV, Global and CHCH. I also run nutrition workshops, do speaking engagements in addition to health writing for several publications.

As you know, May is Asian Heritage Month. At York, we acknowledge the significant contributions that Asian students, faculty, staff, instructors, and alumni have made to the university and to our local and global communities. What does this month mean to you?

For people of Asian heritage like myself, we can have a hard time celebrating our accomplishments. What I think this month is about is telling our stories and I always encourage other Asian-Canadians to not be afraid to tell their own. Similarly, to be proud of your heritage and not be afraid to take up more space in the world.

Do you have any advice for current York students?

Yes, I have a few pieces of advice that I’d like to share:

  • Be kind to your peers because when you're out in the world they become your colleagues and your professional network. Years from now you may see someone doing something cool and you want to be part of it. The kindness you showed them as a student will go a long way.
  • Confidence comes from trying and doing new things, not from waiting until you feel confident enough to do them.
  • And lastly, embrace failure, because “fail” actually stands for First Attempt In Learning.