Dr. Debra Swanson, who is a retired member of the Hope College sociology faculty, has been honored by the North Central Sociological Association for service to the organization across more than a quarter century that included a year as president.

She is one of two recipients of the NCSA’s 2024 Aida Tomeh Distinguished Service Award.  She received the recognition during the NCSA’s annual meeting, held on Friday-Saturday, March 29-30, in Columbus Ohio.

Swanson, who retired from Hope in 2022 after teaching at the college since 1989, was president of the North Central Sociological Association (NCSA) during 2016-17, following a year as president-elect, and was the NCSA’s vice president-elect and vice president during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years.  Especially active in the organization’s teaching section, she made several presentations on teaching during association meetings through the years. The NCSA presented her with its John F. Schnabel Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award during its annual meeting in March 2008, and she was the featured keynote speaker during the NCSA’s annual conference in 2009.

Her professional activity beyond campus has also included serving on the American Sociological Association’s Taskforce on Teaching Sociology in High School and Taskforce on Sociology and General Education.  She was also Hope’s faculty liaison to the virtual Center for Teaching and Learning organized by the Great Lakes Colleges Association.

Swanson 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.  She taught multiple courses in the department, ranging from Introduction to Sociology to Advanced Research, as well as general-education First-Year Seminars and capstone Senior Seminars.  Her service to the college also included chairing the Department of Sociology and Social Work.

Her 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 2022, she was selected for the Summer 2022 Scholar-In-Residence program of the Chicago Semester in which Hope participates, which provided her with support to research the immigration history of five different Chicago neighborhoods for a teaching module on immigration and racism in Chicago for the Race and Ethnic Relations course offered by the Department of Sociology and Social Work.

Swanson has received multiple honors for teaching and service in addition to her awards from the NCSA.  In February 2014, she received a Faculty/Staff Community Service-Learning Award from the Michigan Campus Compact.  In November 2013, she received the monthly Premier Mentor Award presented to a mentor involved with programs partnered with the Ottawa County Mentoring Collective for her work as a volunteer with the Total Trek Quest running program for elementary-age boys.  In January 2009, Hope presented her with its “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 graduated from Hope in 1983 with a sociology major and English minor.  She completed her master’s and doctorate, both in sociology, at Catholic University of America in 1988 and 1995, respectively.

The North Central Sociological Association is a regional sociology association serving the areas of Eastern Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ontario, Canada. The NCSA seeks to further the development of sociology as a scientific and scholarly discipline through stimulation and promotion of scientific research in its defined subject matter area; the widest possible and feasible utilization of the knowledge and skills of sociologists and the findings of scientific sociological research by public and private agencies in all relevant social policy issues; effective teaching of the subject matter at all levels of educational endeavor; and cooperative and collegial relations among persons and organizations engaged in the scientific study of society.

First presented in 1982, the Aida Tomeh Distinguished Service Award is named after Dr. Aida Tomeh, who was a member of the faculty at Bowling Green State University from 1965 until her untimely death in 1984. The award recognizes an NCSA member who has accomplished one or more of the following: service to the NCSA in a single truly outstanding activity; service to the NCSA in many capacities and over a long period of time; service to the NCSA throughout one's professional career.