In Focus
Marriage & Family Therapy

Life Comes Full Circle for New Professor

By Amanda Mayotte ’15

Heather Morgan-Sowada ’09, ’12 MA

Mount Mercy’s newest full-time marriage and family therapy (MFT) faculty member is no stranger to the university. Heather Morgan-Sowada ’09, ’12 MA received her bachelor’s in psychology and was in the first MMU cohort to receive a master’s in MFT. Now, she says she’s honored to teach students in an atmosphere she truly believes in.

“I jumped at the opportunity,” Morgan-Sowada says. “The students are amazing. The faculty is incredible. The atmosphere of MMU is so positive and strength-based. Getting offered a faculty position felt kismet.”

After graduating with her master’s degree, Morgan-Sowada began working in private practice at Cornerstone Brief Therapy in Cedar Rapids and Coralville. Encouraged by her supervisor and former professors, she applied and was accepted to the University of Iowa’s doctoral program in couple and family therapy, and graduates in May.

She also earned a Certificate in College Teaching at the University of Iowa, and after completing teaching practicums under her mentors, she fell in love with the profession. She’s been an adjunct faculty member at Mount Mercy since 2016.

Then, in April 2017, MMU’s MFT program suffered an immeasurable loss when Professor Ashley Merritts passed away after a short bout with cancer. Morgan-Sowada did everything she could to help.

“While Ashley’s passing was a hard hit to the program, Heather was able to adapt and step in as a great support and addition to the program,” said MFT student Amanda Pietig ’18 MA. “She has been a pillar not only for Mount Mercy, but for the MFT field with her proactive mindset and continued dedication to her research topic, body dysmorphic disorder.”

Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, is personal to Morgan-Sowada—she has struggled with the illness since adolescence. When she found it extremely difficult to locate someone in the Midwest who specialized in the disorder, she began her mission to learn how to help others who struggle with BDD.

In 2016, she founded the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Clinic of Iowa—the only clinic in the Midwest that specifically specializes in treating BDD—and in April 2018 she defended her dissertation on the subject.

“Going from MMU student to professor feels surreal,” she says. “Life has come full circle.” ■

“The students are amazing. The faculty is incredible,” says Heather Morgan-Sowada ’09, ’12 MA. “The atmosphere of MMU is so positive and strength-based. Getting offered a faculty position felt kismet.”