(Cath)erine Morley, PhD, PDt, FDC (she/they)
Professor, School of Nutrition and Dietetics, Acadia University
Adjunct Professor, Applied Human Nutrition, Mount St. Vincent University
Cath is an award-winning nutrition educator and leader in dietetics in Canada, a founding member of World Critical Dietetics (https://criticaldieteticsblog.com), and a life member and Fellow of Dietitians of Canada. Cath holds a PhD in Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies (Calgary), an MA in Adult Education (UBC), a BASc in Human Nutrition (Guelph), and completed a dietetic internship at Vancouver General Hospital and Documentary Film and Textile Arts programs at Capilano University. Cath has worked as a dietitian in clinical nutrition, management, and public health positions, as a self-employed consultant in nutrition program development and evaluation, and now, as a professor at Acadia University.
Cath’s career highlights are pursuing advanced education at the doctorate level and in the arts. Cath undertook a doctorate because she wanted to better serve people as a counsellor. Her research was on a topic that had stumped her as a nutrition counsellor - the meanings of eating and relationships with/through food, how these change with the changed health status, and implications for approaches to nutrition education/counselling. After 25 years working in dietetics, Cath’s studies in the arts were motivated first, by her love of textiles, and second, because of her interest in expanding the reach of research findings through the arts particularly in virtual and community settings, learnings she uses daily as an educator.
As well as researching meanings of eating and how these change when one is living with serious illness, Cath’s research interests include teaching and learning in dietetics (critical pedagogy), the food, eating, and nutrition issues of transgender and gender diverse (T+GD) people and T+GD inclusive dietetic practice, the arts in dietetics research and knowledge mobilization, malnutrition risk reduction in community-dwelling older adults, and the histories of dietetics and diet therapies.
Cath was among the first dietitians in Canada to use phenomenologic and arts-informed (qualitative) research approaches. Inspired by a poster she saw when out walking one day, “I Am More Than My Day Job” for a show of works by municipal employees, Catherine curated and hosted Dietitian As Artist shows at various national conferences (and once in her front garden). Committed to textile environmentalism and repurposing, with the aim of only wearing what she makes, few days go by without some sort of stitching going on.
What is your favourite way to unwind?
My favourite way to unwind: Working on anything that involves textiles. I love to sew and knit especially and also weave, spin, dye, crochet, stitch…. I have a purpose-built textile studio and dye room as part of the garage building and a sewing room in the house. There are always multiple projects on the go. I enjoy discovering and ‘rescuing’ vintage fabrics and pieces at thrift shops and giving them new life.
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
Completing my doctorate as a single parent and hearing my kids yell “Yay, Mom!” as I crossed the stage. This was at the University of Calgary; the Chancellor encouraged friends and family to whoop it up when their loved one’s name was called recognizing that no one completes a degree is isolation..
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
Dietetics is dominated by positivist and modernist thinking that I believe constrains what it is possible for dietitians to do and to be. While I appreciate information derived through quantitative methods, I value post-modernism, and knowledge derived using phenomenology and arts-informed approaches. The challenge is that much of what we (could) know using these latter methods and people’s lived experiences is ignored or minimized. Students often tell me that I talk about ‘the soft stuff’ meaning ‘easier’ or ‘fluffy’ or ‘less important’. Gadzooks! To me, integrating people’s lived experiences into what we do as dietitians to better serve the next person or community is the really challenging stuff, not ‘fluff’ at all. I would love to see all dietitians and dietetics as a field of study/work embrace multiple ways of knowing. I feel I have been pushing rocks uphill my entire career.