posted December 11, 2013

Debra Swanson Receives Mentoring and Service-Learning Awards

Dr. Debra Swanson, professor of sociology at Hope College, has been named the recipient of two awards that recognize her commitment to service to community:  one for her own dedication as a volunteer, and another for her role in guiding students in learning how to make a difference.

In November, Swanson received the Premier Mentor Award presented each month to a mentor involved with programs partnered with the Ottawa County Mentoring Collective (OCMC) for her work as a volunteer with Total Trek Quest (TTQ), a running program for elementary-age boys.  In February, she will receive a Michigan Campus Compact (MiCC) Faculty/Staff Community Service-Learning Award for emphasizing service-learning in the classroom at Hope.

Swanson was presented the Premier Mentor Award by State Representative Joseph Haveman of Michigan’s 90th District on Thursday, Nov. 21.

Total Trek Quest is an eight-week program of Pathways, MI for boys in third to fifth grade that emphasizes increasing health and wellness and preventing high-risk behaviors through physical activity and training for participation in a 5K race—which for many participants is the first race they’ve ever run.  The boys practice in teams based at several West Michigan elementary schools and then all gather for the culminating race.  The emphasis in the program is not on winning the race but on running the best possible race.

Swanson has been involved as a coach with TTQ since 2006, when her son was in fourth grade, and has been a member of the organization’s advisory board for the past five years.

The Michigan Campus Compact (MiCC) Faculty/Staff Community Service-Learning Award recognizes outstanding community service and service-learning by faculty and staff at the colleges and universities that are members of MiCC.  Recipients are honored for engaging or influencing students to be involved in community service or service-learning through modeling, influence or instruction.  Presented biennially, the awards are given to one recipient from each institution that has nominated a faculty or staff member.

Swanson and the other honorees will be recognized on Monday, Feb. 3, during the awards ceremony and 25th anniversary celebration being held in conjunction with MiCC’s 2014 Civic Engagement Institute, taking place at the DeVos Center on Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus in Grand Rapids.

Swanson’s integration of service-learning into her teaching provides students with hands-on experience serving with local agencies as a complement to their classroom lessons.  Students in her “Social Movements and Community Development” course, for example, participate in groups of four to six during semester-long service-learning placements with community organizations.  Recent group projects included collecting donations and supplies and creating baskets of supplies for displaced victims of domestic abuse, and organizing a services fair for homeless high school students that included resources such as free eye exams donated by an optometrist, employment and housing booths, and games and crafts for younger children.  Readings, discussion and other coursework put the service-learning in context and link the students’ experiences to theory and research.

Swanson’s research interests include service-learning and community development, the social construction of mothering, and teaching and learning.  Her scholarship includes articles in numerous professional journals as well as a variety of presented papers and addresses.

In 2008, she received the “John F. Schnabel Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award” presented by the North Central Sociological Association (NCSA).  In January 2009, Hope presented her with a “Ruth and John Reed Faculty Achievement Award in recognition of service to the academic program that included directing the college’s Teaching Enhancement Workshop Committee.

She joined the Hope faculty in 1989 as a visiting instructor of sociology.  Following a one-semester leave, she returned as an assistant professor in the fall of 1994.  She was promoted to associate professor in 1996 and full professor in 2006.

Swanson graduated from Hope in 1983 with a major in sociology.  She completed her master’s and doctorate, both in sociology, at Catholic University of America in 1988 and 1995 respectively.

The Ottawa County Mentoring Collaborative is dedicated to supporting mentors and mentored youth in the community.  The several programs that are partnered through the collaborative work together to ensure that mentors and mentees have access to free and low-cost activities, as well as quality training opportunities, and the agencies work together to recruit, train and support matches.

Michigan Campus Compact is a coalition of college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the public purpose of higher education.  The compact promotes the education and commitment of Michigan college students to be civically engaged citizens, through creating and expanding academic, co-curricular and campus-wide opportunities for community service, service-learning and civic engagement.  Some 43 Michigan colleges and universities are members of MiCC.