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Barb Anderson (’77): nutrition and dietetics leader, teacher, explorer

March 5, 2019

Student, alumna, teacher, Director of Acadia’s School of Nutrition and Dietetics – for Barb Anderson (’77), Acadia is part of who she is.

“I love this university,” she says. “I was a student here in the seventies and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics. The program I’m involved in now is cutting edge. Being in Wolfville and being at Acadia is like a dream come true.”

The School of Nutrition and Dietetics is part of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Science, and the program’s two components are distinct but interconnected. Nutrition is about what we eat and how nutrients work in the body, how we stay healthy and prevent illness, and how we deal with somebody once they have a nutrition-related illness, Anderson explains. Dietetics is the profession that addresses those issues.

Anderson’s own research interest is food security, and she and Dr. Lesley Frank (Sociology) are part of a collaborative team that recently received a Social Science and Humanities Research Council grant. “Food security is looking to see how people can access food that is acceptable to them, that is environmentally sound, and that is socially just,” she says. “We want to make sure people can have the food they need to stay healthy and to be there for their families, to be able to have a job, to be able to step into a community. I consider food security to be an important part of sorting out the bigger issues of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment.”

Students discover a new world

As director, Anderson also teaches, which she says is the norm for program directors at Acadia. That’s because teaching ensures that directors stay up to date on their topics and maintain a relationship with students other than that of an administrator. “The teaching is a very important part of this role, and it’s a significant part of what we value at Acadia,” she says.

She teaches students in their first year and again in third year; she also attends many of the fourth-year senior seminar evenings. Over that period, she finds that students change dramatically.

“Most students in their first year are getting their sea legs. They’re beginning to understand what university is all about and how complex the program is that they’ve stepped into,” she says. “A lot of students think nutrition is a clinically focused program. What they discover is a world that is about food, it’s about agriculture, it’s about sensory evaluation. It’s about understanding how to deal with the complex issues of food security. It’s about making sure you can work as part of a team, that you can present effectively, that you’re a good communicator, that you can problem solve. So the development, the growth, is unbelievable.”

We have students who are going on to do absolutely amazing things, taking journeys that probably none of us would ever have expected. And at the end of the journey, students have an opportunity to make a big difference in the world as a result of being at Acadia University”

“A special place”

Improvements to Acadia’s science infrastructure ensure that faculty have the equipment and resources they need to do specialized research. “We have a faculty member who’s working on 3D food printing,” Anderson says. “That’s a pretty intriguing area that people are excited and interested in right now. Students are using specialized equipment. They’re learning about an area of food production that 10 years ago was just a pipe dream.”

The campus and Acadia community also play an important role in students’ experiences, she maintains. “You don’t get lost here,” she says. “You can walk up any of the walkways on campus and see students or faculty members or staff that you know. If you want to celebrate something, you have people you can celebrate with. If you need to problem solve something, you have people you can problem solve with.”

Acadia, she says, is a special place. “There’s a sense of community here that’s unlike anywhere else. We are creating new knowledge that is nationally and, in some cases, internationally recognized. We have students who are going on to do absolutely amazing things, taking journeys that probably none of us would ever have expected. And at the end of the journey, students have an opportunity to make a big difference in the world as a result of being at Acadia University.”

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