Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew
Associate Dean Research
Werklund School of Education, Academic Support Offices
Werklund School of Education, Specialization, Counselling Psychology
Werklund School of Education, Specialization, Counselling Psychology
Child Health & Wellness Researcher
Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute
Doctor of Philosophy Counselling Psychology, University of Calgary, 2003
M.Sc. Counselling Psychology, University of Calgary, 1998
B.Sc. Psychology, University of Calgary, 1994
The primary objective of my research program is to lead and transform research about weight-related issues like body image (perceptions, attitudes, and experiences about the body), disordered eating (e.g., unhealthy methods of weight change), weight-related disorders (e.g., obesity and eating disorders) and professional conversations and interactions about weight (e.g., weight bias). Body weight and body image (feelings and perceptions about our bodies) are both important to well-being and healthy development. My research is informed by clinical and research experience in interdisciplinary team contexts, as well as linkages between my work in academia and committee work with policy-makers and community partners.
My professional journey working with weight-related issues is influenced and fueled by a deeply personal and sometimes troubled relationship with my own body. No one is immune to the cultural discourses about weight. In my work, I reflect on the personal, professional and political ‘situatedness’ of my research and aspire to embody the change I wish to see in the world.
My social science research program is located between health and education as I have advanced knowledge and practices in both fields. This ‘in-between’ area allows research on obesity prevention that avoids costly competing health issues of eating disorders, disordered eating, and associated mental health issues. The complexity of weight-related issues requires integrative strategies across multiple health outcomes which I have demonstrated in my research related to school health and wellbeing. My research program has resulted in transdisciplinary networks – communities of practice – that study and implement educational strategies associated with obesity and eating disorders to ensure consistent messaging across sectors and settings, from public and professional education to primary health care. I have extensive experience and success in initiating communities of practice where academic and non-academic stakeholders work together to design and implement research for immediate and sustained impact. My research questions, methods, and dissemination occur in the following three communities (Weight Bias Research Teams, Body Image Research Lab, and Teachers of Tomorrow) where I directly collaborate with stakeholders impacted by the research. This forward-thinking approach demonstrates my ability to work effectively within and across disciplines with graduate students, community partners, researchers, academics, policy makers, and practitioners.
Areas of Research
- Body image
- Weight stigma
- Eating disorders
- Weight-neutral approaches to education and health care
- Collaborative, school-based research
- Counselling and health issues
- School-based health promotion and prevention programs
- Mental health and well-being
- Comprehensive School Health
My Body Image Research Lab is modelled on science and medicine labs. I use a nested method of supervision where postdoctoral scholars contribute to the supervision of doctoral students who in turn contribute to the supervision of master’s students. This creates dozens of collaborative teams working together to advance knowledge and impact. This layered type of research experience grows students’ competence and confidence and is in alignment with my belief in communities of learning and providing opportunities for mentoring and mentorship. I am a nationally recognized supervisor having supervised to completion 51 graduate students (39 masters/12 doctoral) and 9 postdoctoral scholars. I currently supervise 10 graduate students, have 2 graduate students joining in Fall 2023 and one postdoctoral scholar joined my lab in May 2023 and was awarded Eyes High Match funding.
I am a nationally recognized supervisor (UCalgary Graduate Research Supervision Award 2018 and Canadian Psychological Association Feminist Mentor Award 2018). My trainees have won major national awards, including a CIHR Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship. Six of my nine former postdoctoral scholars (some of whom were graduate students) are currently in tenure-track professor (1 associate; 5 assistant) positions in North America, with one in a high-level research position in a health authority and another employed with the National Institute of Health, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, US Department of Health.
My Body Image Research Lab provides opportunities for (a) collaboration on existing data sets and research projects; (b) contributions to research supervision of undergraduate and master's students; (c) participation in within- and across- faculties research team meetings on interdisciplinary projects and across universities on provincial and national projects; and (d) dissemination opportunities both written and oral in individual and group contexts. I aim to create a research milieu that is a collaborative learning experience, capitalize on individual strengths, provide opportunities to be mentored and be a mentor, create interdisciplinary skills, and directly in line with the future career objectives of each student. My supervision follows a scientist-practitioner model and involves intensive individual supervision as well as at least monthly group supervision in the lab.
The Teachers of Tomorrow (TOT) initiative targets students in Bachelor of Education (BEd) programs prior to their involvement in K-12 schools with innovative strategies to promote systemic change around wellness practices. By focusing on both the “what” (curriculum) and the “how” (pedagogy), TOT strengthens the impetus for organizational changes within BEd programs to better prepare future teachers in addressing their own wellbeing and enhancing wellbeing throughout K-12 and postsecondary settings. This is accomplished by using the Comprehensive School Health (CSH) framework, the gold standard for schools around the world. CSH enhances students’ abilities to learn and provides a multi-faceted structure for improving wellness within school communities. I have been co-leading this work with Ever Active Schools for over a decade. Empowering K-12 teachers to create healthy school communities positively impacts their own wellness and their ability to address health with students. Knowledge mobilization will continue to be a priority as we expand the existing online Comprehensive School Health Hub, a digital repository of K-12 school wellness resources for BEd students/in-service teachers and a community of practice for individuals in teaching, learning and researching wellness at the postsecondary level. We share the resources developed throughout the research process, including, scholarly literature, curricula (e.g., course outlines), and podcasts.
Dr. Russell-Mayhew is a national leader in mental health research and translation, bridging the gap between the eating disorder and obesity fields to find integrative and preventative interventions. Through skillful integration of social and medical sciences, and deep collaboration with practitioners, Dr. Russell-Mayhew has changed how we understand the effects of weight bias on mental health. She is leading a transformation in wellness teaching and practice.
2023. Teachers of tomorrow: Developing an Alberta stakeholder network. SSHRC Connection Grant. ($25,000). PRINCIPLE. Partner: Kerri Murray & Louise McClelland (Ever Active Schools).
2023. Equity at every size: Developing a national weight stigma strategy. SSHRC Partnership Development Grant. ($187, 703). Co-Applicant. Primary Applicant: Sarah Nutter
2023. Teachers of tomorrow: Development of a funding strategy to support research aims. VPR Catalyst Grant. UCalgary. ($15,000). PRINCIPLE. Partner: Kerri Murray & Louise McClelland (Ever Active Schools).
2022. PodClass Updates: Conversations on School Health Series. Werklund T&L Support Grant. ($1350)
2022. Preventing youth suicide: A virtual human approach. Government of Alberta Youth Suicide Prevention Grant. Co-Investigator. ($267,433). Primary Applicants: Carly McMorris and Deinera Exner
2022. HEARTcare planning for Educational Workers: Mobilizing Interventions for Compassion Fatigue and Burnout SSHRC Partnership Development Grant ($166,374). Co-Applicant. Primary Applicant: Dr. Astrid Kendrick
2022. Flip the script: Experiences of wellbeing from teacher training to early career. UCalgary Teaching and Learning Grant ($39,992). PRINCIPAL. Co-Principal: Dr. Maxine Myre. Partner: Kerri Murray (Ever Active Schools).
2022. Championing Wellbeing: Examining the Implementation and Impact of a Wellbeing Framework in a Large Urban School District in Alberta. Alberta Education Research Partnerships Program Grant. ($49,500). PRINCIPAL. Co-Investigators: Dr. Michelle Kilborn and Dr. Astrid Kendrick. Co-Applicants: Ever Active Schools, Kerri Murray; Calgary Board of Education, Chris Fenlon-McDonald; Alberta Health Services, Nannette Gropp.
2021. Update for the Podclass: Conversations on school health lecture series from EDUC 551. Werklund T&L Support Grant. ($1500)
2021. Interpreting the complexity of body image in adolescent and young adult cancer survivors. SSHRC Insight Development. ($71,255) CO-INVESTIGATOR. NPI: Alana Ireland. Co-I: Nancy Moules; Collaborator: Michael Lang.
2021. Measure what matters: Identifying key indictors to align health and social policy and service delivery with child health and well-being. BMO Endowed Research Award in Healthy Living the Branch Category of the Child Health and Wellness Grand Challenge Catalyst Fund ($199, 709). CO-PRINCIPAL. NPI: Brent Hagel CoPIs: Jennifer Zwicker, Kelly Schwartz, Lynden Crowshoe, Health Boynton; Co-Is: Gina Dimitropoulos, Suzanne Tough, Amy Metcalfe, Deinera Exner-Cortens.
- D2L Innovation Award, Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 2022
- Werklund Research Professor Werklund School of Education, Werklund School of Education. 2020
- Canadian Psychological Association Feminist Mentorship Award, Canadian Psychological Association . 2018
- WSE Community Engagement Award, 2019
- UCalgary Teaching and Learning Award for Full-Time Academic, 2019
- UCalgary Teaching and Learning Award for Graduate Research Supervision, 2018
- UCalgary teaching and Learning Award for Educational Leadership (Group), 2018
- Werklund Research Excellence Award, Werklund School of Education. 2018
- Distinguished Research Lecture Award, Werklund School of Education. 2016
In the News
Comprehensive School Health Online Hub (https://cshhub.com) is both a directory for wellness resources in K-12 educational spaces and a repository for post-secondary wellness resources. This online hub is a digital repository of CSH resources for post-secondary institutions and a central place for uploading and downloading resources and for collaboration across institutions. In this way, course materials, outlines, classroom activities, case studies, lesson plans, assignments, reading materials, journal articles, and other successes build collaboratively, allowing other BEd programs to accelerate their timeline in implementing this work. Reciprocally, the our team learns from experts across Canada in terms of signature pedagogies and successful teaching practices.
The PodClass: Conversations on School Health is a 44-episode podcast series with professionally edited interviews. More than 40 experts discuss cover topics concerning school health. As a podcast series, it is available through the HUB website (registration required) and Spotify, Apple, and other podcast platforms where anyone can access for free. So far, there have been 14.3k unique listeners and 39.1k downloads across 72 countries. For classroom teaching at UCalgary in EDUC 551, a subset is consumed outside of class time as a flipped pedagogy; students are able to participate in course content in a way that enables them to concurrently do something that attends to their wellbeing.
Building Healthy School Communities is a free, 4-part online course that lays the foundations for understanding wellbeing in the context of education settings. The intended audience is in-service or pre-service teachers who can access the course through the CSH Online Hub (registration required). The course consists of four modules: conceptualizing wellbeing, wellness in education settings, introduction to CSH, and sources of health information. The entire course takes approximately 90 minutes to complete and includes a number of additional readings and resources that participants are encouraged to access. Each section contains a short multiple-choice quiz to test the learner’s knowledge and it graded automatically.
Select Recent Media:
For better or for worse: Feminist Scholars weight in on Barbie’s legacy. UToday (July 21, 2023). Article and Video
Shamed if we gain weight, shamed if we lose it. Body scrutiny has gone 360. Toronto Star. The Star Calgary. The Kit (July 1, 2023). Article
Calgary burlesque class encourages bigger-bodied performers to be confident in their own skin, CBC News. (March 9, 2023) https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/burlesque-class-body-diversity-1.6769946
https://globalnews.ca/news/9442413/calgary-theatre-play-weight-bias/ (January 27, 2023)
Russell-Mayhew, S. (November 2021). Now innovating: A research-to-impact podcast. Episode 8: Innovation done differently with Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew. www.ucalgary.ca/innovation-podcast
Russell-Mayhew (Fall 2021). Podcast. Weight-neutral health promotion in schools. Teacher Fan Club. https://open.spotify.com/episode/57Hg7wpyY0UBIKTGo7t7rp
UCalgary Blogs. Teaching and Learning. Flipped Classroom
EdCanRadio. Well At Work Podcast. (May 2021). Body Image and the Alberta PE and Wellness Curriculum https://voiced.ca/podcast_episode_post/body-image-and-the-alberta-physical-education-and-wellness-curriculum/
RealTalk with Ryan Jesperson (May 11, 2021). Live zoom interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYlymlaiJMc
CBC news and radio (May 6 ,2021). Alberta's draft K-6 health and wellness curriculum promotes disordered eating habits, experts warn https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-draft-health-wellness-curriculum-eating-habits-1.6013847
EdCan Network. Well at Work Podcast: July 2020. How should we be talking about weight in schools? https://www.edcan.ca/articles/weight-in-schools/
EdCan Network. Well at Work Podcast: July 2020. It takes a village: A comprehensive school health approach to well-being. https://www.edcan.ca/articles/it-takes-a-village
The Conversation (August 4, 2020). Are we over weight yet? New guidelines aim to reduce obesity stigma in health care. https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=conversation+canada+are+we+over+weight+yet&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-
Obesity Canada. Weight bias, mental health, and COVID-19 Webinar: July 2020.
The Conversation. January 2019. How weight bias is harming us all. https://theconversation.com/how-weight-bias-is-harming-us-all-107352
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