Forbes – A Career in a Year? Integrative Nutrition Is Breaking the Traditional University Mold


I mentioned the reasons why I chose IIN for my school in one of my other Let Food Be Thy Medicine post and here is a great article in Forbes about Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

“When we look at the factors that most threaten U.S. higher education today, it is reasonable—even logical—to look within our institutions because there are so many dangers inside academia at this juncture in its history. It might sound alarmist to say so, but academia really is standing on a cliff.

First and foremost, the economics of higher education are no longer sustainable, neither for colleges and universities nor for the students who study there. Costs are exploding for institutions, and the burden of tuition and room and board is driving families and students into deep and sometimes unrecoverable debt.” – Doug Guthrie

Here is a copy of the Forbes’ article (the link did not work)

Career in a Year? Integrative Nutrition Is Breaking the Traditional University Mold

Joshua Rosenthal, founder of Integrative Nutrition

by Cheryl Snapp Conner, originally published on February 4, 2013, Forbes

Here’s the story of a highly successful entrepreneur, Joshua Rosenthal, and his organization The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), who is actively setting a new direction for post-secondary education. With no prior business or MBA background (Rosenthal’s degrees are in academia), he’s breaking the rules of traditional management as well, yet his company is achieving phenomenal growth. In many respects, coming from a non-MBA background is perhaps a net plus—John Greathouse wrote compellingly about the reasons most MBA’s actually fail at startup companies here.

Now 20 years old, IIN is comprised of some 150 employees in the Flatiron District of New York. The program has produced 20,000 graduates worldwide. IIN has grown 30% per year over the past several years, even in (and perhaps especially in) the troubled economy, with a program that produces certified Health Coaches in the span of a year for a tuition cost of approximately $5,000.

What I find most interesting about IIN, however, is Rosenthal’s vision. His primary motivation is not profit (in fact at the end of his career he intends to give most or all of his assets away). Rosenthal is a quiet and spiritual individual whose driving agenda is to influence the world for good. The traditional model for post-secondary education simply got in the way. IIN consistently partners with similarly mission-driven organizations, and has already given $500,000 (so far) to charities and foundations around the world.

It would be fair to categorize Rosenthal as a full-on social entrepreneur. By his own admission he is not a capitalist, yet he is keenly aware that his school must meet traditional metrics in order to achieve his greater mission of promoting greater health and happiness in the world. For example,
the company just launched, a site with no advertising, to advance global wellness and health by providing cutting edge information on topics of nutrition, fitness, and relationships.

When Worlds Collide
Despite all the articles and schools of thought on the rules that make a company successful, Rosenthal is an example of someone who created a flourishing venture in a non-traditional process while generally ignoring standard management rules.

His sense of higher mission is certainly helpful. As we visit, I mentally walk through the rules I covered in the 5 Sure Signs a Startup firm will succeed – 1) has validated customers, 2) has a strategic perspective, 3) cash conservative, 4) operates with transparency, and 5) communicates well. I note the answers all appear to be yes.

However, Rosenthal describes his business strategy in a different way. When I ask about his model for business he shows me a Venn diagram on How to Be Happy in Business (the copy here included courtesy of Simon Kemp, @eskimon). The philosophy is simple and even obvious—the intersection of what you love with what you’re good at and what pays well is the area that produces the highest business (and personal) “win.”

IIN is privately held, but a little mental math of a profitable venture growing 30% per year produces impressive metrics by any commercial measurement stance. The company provided me with this information about the 20,000 students who have graduated so far:

 71% enroll with the intention of becoming a Health Coach
 64% enroll for personal development and enrichment
 56% enroll to improve their or their family’s health
 30% enroll to advance or supplement their current career

With their degrees:

 70% launch a health coaching practice while still a student.
 Of these students, 69% begin working with clients in a six-month program before graduation
 69% make an income through health coaching while still in school
 25% charge $100/hour

Out of curiosity, because I’m intensely interested in health and nutrition myself, I put the word out to my circle of fitness friends to see if any of them were familiar with IIN. I got an immediate response from a friend who graduated in 2012. She thoroughly enjoyed the program; so much so that she’s now continuing forward in the school’s Immersion Program that will provide her (free of charge) with advanced training on how to use her abilities to create her own business. The program is timely as she’s in the process of closing down a traditional brick and mortar business that is no longer profitable enough in the Internet economy—the IIN career training is helping her transition successfully to a new career.

Integrative Nutrition employees enjoy each other’s company as they eat the healthy lunch IIN provides

Friends and Foes
Who wouldn’t welcome an organization like this? As I inquire, apparently traditional universities, somewhat understandably, resent the implications of a company that can produce graduates within a year that may be competing for jobs, in some cases, with graduates of their traditional 4-year programs.

Likewise, by its very nature IIN is destined to be at odds with purveyors of non-health products such as the tobacco industry and its commercialized cousins. However, the company’s alliance with traditional academia has become increasingly strong, even as the company upsets the economic apple cart on which they rely.

Dr. Greg Braxton-Brown, teaching and learning coach for IIN, notes that the Health Coach certificate program IIN provides is an entirely different entity than the traditional programs that are predominantly science and research based. In contrast, IIN’s program is a practical and “integrated” (thus the name) analysis of nutrition programs that provides understanding, application, and applied learning of traditional and holistic programs. Its goal is to 1) help people identify the dietary principles that will be most effective for them, and 2) assist practitioners in applying their knowledge to a coaching or teaching job or to the independent business the program can help them create.
IIN does not eschew traditional education, Braxton-Brown notes, citing a fairly extensive list of college and university partnerships. IIN has submitted its curriculum to the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS), an agency of the University of the State of New York, who examined IINs curriculum and coursework and determined how it compares to traditional college coursework. The agency has concluded that IIN’s Health Coach Training Program (HCTP) is equivalent to 29 college credits.

Braxton-Brown reports that IIN has a continuing education partnership with the State University of New York and the California State University, the nation’s two largest university systems. Purchase College of SUNY and Long Beach of the California State University currently both grant 42 CEUs for completion of HCTP.

A yoga instructor conducts classes for employees on site

Many colleges and universities accept IIN credits in transfer. IIN also has a unique partnership with Goddard College for a fully articulated Bachelor of Art and Master of Art degree programs that build on IIN teachings. While it is still a few years away, he notes that IIN is building a PhD partnership program as well. Many students who come to IIN have a bachelor’s degree or even a graduate degree already in hand, he says, and are looking for specific subject matter to supplement their traditional training or to assist them in turning an avid interest into a full time or supplemental career.

From the Beginning
I asked Rosenthal how, as an academic whose interest and focus was never on business, he came to found and lead a rapid growth organization. He shared parts of his story with me. Other aspects are perhaps personal enough to warrant finding the opportunity to meet Rosenthal and his organization yourself. Perhaps I will share more of that interview on another day.

Rosenthal was always intrigued by different approaches to nutrition. After 10 years studying and teaching macrobiotics, he realized the very foods this protocol says are bad for you, such eating garlic, oranges, or drinking plenty of water, are considered supremely healthy by other programs. The dichotomy launched him into years of research to discover for himself what he could stand behind and advocate as true.

The academic side of his nature compelled him to scientifically research all major dietary theories—high protein, low protein, high carb, low carb, vegetarian, vegan, raw foods, etc.—in all, he has analyzed more than 100 prevailing nutritional methodologies.

In his quest for discovery, he concluded that most every program contains points of merit, but that for most people no single dietary theory will provide every answer. Likewise, the same diet that helps an individual achieve optimum health could actually become their downfall over time if followed too strictly.

He noticed that people following very different dietary theories were equally healthy. Nutrition is the only science where some people’s experience can produce outcomes that are opposite of what others have proven. Thus, the approach to his program (and the theme of his book – Integrative Nutrition—available from Amazon or from the IIN site) and his core principle of bio-individuality. Bio-individuality is what it sounds like. There’s no one-size-fits-all diet, IIN maintains, and one person’s food could be another one’s poison. In 1991 Rosenthal taught his first live class in New York City. The Integrative Nutrition program is now available online with students around the globe.
Students participate online and by phone making it possible to study anytime and anywhere. The school also conducts free live conferences several times a year in New York City.

This is the way to celebrate a graduation. Rosenthal and students enjoy a live IIN event.
A walking tour through the company’s headquarters unveils a culture like no other business I’ve encountered before. The atmosphere is quiet–even serene. The employees are energized and visibly healthy.

The sunny rooms are a surprising contrast to the Manhattan scenes at the street level below. In the main area there is a commercial kitchen, where the business prepares an organic breakfast, lunch and snack that it provides for the employees free of charge, every day. The open space lunchroom space doubles as a meeting and conversational area. And at 5:30 pm, they offer nightly yoga classes with specialized trainers.

Megan, the team member who guides me (everyone is on a first name basis at IIN)—notes that while it’s not required that employees stay on site, they are encouraged to enjoy the company provided amenities and to get better acquainted with each other as friends over lunch. A massage therapist comes regularly. On the day I visit, the company-provided chiropractor has just left, Megan tells me, and I can see various team members stretch in delight. This is clearly not a typical corporation in any respect.

For the future—Rosenthal acknowledges that he fully expects his personal vision for IIN and the traditional constructs of capitalistic business will continue to bump and collide. He is up for the
challenge, although he anticipates the need and welcomes the help of others who are like-minded. He views the additional press his company’s growing presence will bring with mixed emotions. “I’m not sure I like the attention,” he acknowledges—“But if it gets people thinking about ways to live a healthier and happier life, then that’s good. Maybe my mother will see it, and if she does—it’s my hope she’ll be proud.”

Cheryl Snapp Conner, founder and managing partner of Snapp Conner PR, has more than 22 years of experience in public relations for leading technology firms.


To your health,


    • Thank you for stopping by my website!
      I LOVE IIN – great school! Not sure what you may be interested in, but if you wish we can chat on the phone and I will try and answer your questions if any…let me know and I will send you my phone number.
      Best Elena


  1. Thanks for visiting and liking my blog. I will take some time to read through your archives, as nutrition, exercise, and a “balanced” lifestyle are important to me. As we age and our bodies change, as well as our lifestyles, keeping up with all this is an ongoing challenge! Keep up your good work.


    • Hello Marilyn and thank you. I love what I do and I also feel that researching these areas are very interesting, useful and helpful as I age. I love being able to appreciate what my body is going though, understand and support it.
      Thank you again for stopping by,


  2. How wonderful for you Elena! I have always believed that we literally are what we eat. Now there is proof of that in just about every mall parking lot in the country. Please keep us in the loop with what your career path does for you and for those around you. You could become the newest Adele Davis!


    • Adele Davis was an amazing woman! If I can make any impact, even a fraction of what she did would be a great accomplishment! Thank you for stopping by, Elena


    • I am so happy you are finding my blog helpful! I am so grateful to have this platform to share the information I believe useful. Thank you visiting, Elena


    • Dara, you know, I have no idea, I am sorry, but I will try and find out. I do know that we had a ton of international students in my class, from Canada, Russia, Hong Kong, many from Europe, Australia, etc. So my guess is they do, but again, I will have to call and ask. Will let you know.


  3. BTW I was referring to the Shop Conscious blog when I thanked you for stopping by. I realized after I commented that I am currently signed into my other one. 🙂


    • Dara, I did call IIN and since it is certification, there do not have international accreditation. But of course you can always give them a call to get the details (877) 780-5451 admissions dept.
      Thank you for visiting and by the way I love your Good at Life blog! great writing and great pictures! Please let me know if you have any questions. Best,


      • Thanks so much for checking, so sweet! I might give them a call. I’ve checked them out from a distance over the years but that was when I lived in the US. Thanks for the “likes” on my blog posts, too. 🙂 I like your blog as well. xx


      • Absolutely! I love the school. the organization is built on integrity and it just feels right. Best to you!


  4. Hi Elena! Thank you for this post! I am currently doing my “due diligence” before registering with IN to start courses in July. The link above didn’t work, but I was able to read the article elsewhere. I have been an RN for 16 yes and am planning to transition to health coaching & physical trainer. I also think the program “feels right”. Do you have any other insight/advice for me? Feel free to email me if you have the time. Thanks so much and best wishes!!!!


  5. Very informative post. Thanks!
    Most of my life I have been interested in the ways food/nutrition impact our bodies. Now I am seeking answers that require deeper exploration.
    Robyn Michele Levy


    • Robyn, your journey is definitely something that is much deeper than simply eating well to be healthy! Good luck!
      I love your drawings!!! Very unexpected and so beautiful! I already have favorites 🙂


  6. As one who was for many years in academia, I am appalled at the cost of a college degree today and wonder how anyone can afford it. – Incidentally, I want to thank you for liking the excerpt from one of my novels, “The Telephone Killer – Chapter 14” on Again, thank you and Aloha – pjs.


    • Nicole, thank you so much for stopping by! I am glad this post may have helped. Please feel free to ask any question you may have about IIN, hopefully I can provide more info. Good luck on this journey 🙂 Elena


  7. Hey, I searched for this article on the Forbes website but couldn’t find it….Could you please post a link to the original article? Thanks!


    • Hi Sarah, as I mentioned in my post, the link to the article did not work, that is why I copied the article here. In fact, I have noticed that links often become broken over time, and so now I always try to provide the link as well as copy the actual content. Sorry 😦


  8. Good post! I’ve been strongly considering joining the IIN for a while now because of my deep passion in the field of holistic medicine. My only confusion is the value of accreditation versus other common four year nutrition degrees in the market of our economy. I suppose it comes down to trust and personal level of expertise. Check out my blog sometime:


    • Hi Peter, I loved IIN, for me it was more about holistic education, holistic doctors, naturopaths, other health coaches, that IIN brings in to teach. I could not have imagined getting a more in-depth diverse education as far as holistic, nutritional theories, latest research, diets, mental and physical health. From every angle, everything from scientifically based lecture on why we all should be vegan, to a totally opposite view also scientifically backed up, on why we need to be paleo, as the year goes on, you are able to make your own educated decisions. Just an amazing and positive experience.
      Love your blog, great positive message. Thank you!


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