Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics and Associate Clinical Professor Dolores Kearney has decided to retire after her 47-year-long career.
Kearney got her bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics at the University of New York at Oneonta and her master’s of public health and nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She began her college career as a biology major, but quickly changed to nutrition and dietetics because of the requirement to pursue graduate studies as a biology major.
“Reality was knowing that, with a biology degree, I had limited opportunities for a job and most likely I would have to go get further education,” Kearney said. “So, I got my college catalog […] and I came across this degree that was nutrition and dietetics. It had biology, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry, all those things that I absolutely loved. And after four years, I could get a job.”
Kearney said that she was not a stranger to the world of nutrition and dietetics because of the influence brought upon by her late mother.
“I’ve always been interested in food and nutrition,” Kearney said. “My mom was a great cook. My grandma was a great cook, and my mom had really good meal-planning habits. We always ate very healthy meals and so it was very ingrained in me.I have always had a passion for helping people and so it just ended up being a perfect career.”
After college, Kearney planned to work as a clinical dietitian for the remainder of her career. Kearney married and moved to North Carolina for her husband to go to graduate school. Kearney began searching for a job as a clinical dietitian but was unable to find a position due to her lack of experience in the area. Instead, she began working at a long-term care facility in a food service position, an experience she said would later prove useful in her career.
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to do that job, but it was that or not have money to pay the rent and buy food to support us,” Kearney said. “That’s how I got my food service experience. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I loved it. It’s always helped me get my jobs in academia because a lot of registered dietitians don’t have that experience, and I can fill that gap and teach those courses.”
Kearney ultimately decided to attend graduate school. She was driven to pursue this based on her enthusiasm for helping people manage their illness and providing them a better quality of life.
“They had a nutrition program but it was in public health and, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what public health was,” Kearney said. “So I started researching it and thought, “oh, I love this, this is prevention.” And so that’s how I ended up getting my public health degree.”
Professor Kearney has been an educator for the past 20 years. When asked about the pinnacle of her career, Kearney explained how her time as a professor has been specifically rewarding.
“I loved every job I ever had, but these last years being in education is definitely the highlight because I not only get to do what I love to do, but I get to help other people learn and come into the profession,” Kearney said. “It’s just so rewarding to see the students starting down this path of dietetics […] and I love welcoming people into our profession.”
For the last 14 years of her career, Kearney has been at Texas Woman’s working as a professor and director. According to Kearney, with a passionate perspective on the university and its missions, TWU is the “best-kept secret in the metroplex.”
“I knew about TWU because I had a lot of dietician friends who either went to school here or taught here, but it wasn’t until I started working here that I realized the specialness of it,” Kearney said. “I love that we know our students. Our classes are small and we get to work very individually with them on a very personal level. Then, I love the diversity here at TWU. We’re not a typical college of 18 to 22 year olds. Many of our students have worked for many years and then come back to school, or they have families that are coming back to school, or they’ve had other careers and they come back to school so they just bring a greater depth of understanding of the world and it just enriches everything that we do in the classroom.”
Kearney said that, while saddened by the end of her fulfilling career, feels that “lots of pieces of the puzzle are falling into place” and has made some plans for her retirement including travel, more time with family and pickleball.
Being the director of the dietetics program, Kearney is taking this time to prepare the person who will be filling her shoes once she leaves. Given that her job has a lot of responsibilities, Kearney offered up some advice for whoever takes on her position.
“I think the important thing is to maintain that personal relationship that we have with our students, and just kind of always be there to help them,” Kearney said. “I think our students are really special and unique. They have a lot of challenges to overcome.”
Kearney said she is satisfied with her career and would not change anything about it if given the opportunity.
“I don’t regret any part of my career. It’s not how I planned it, but it’s worked out perfectly,” Kearney said. “I always tell my students to just keep all your options open. Don’t say no to anything because everything is an opportunity. It might not be what you think it’s going to be and I think I’m a perfect example of that. So I thoroughly love my career. I will miss it.”
Hannah Everett can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.