Professor Spotlight

Dr. Catherine Swender

Cathy Swender

Dr. Swender is a Professor in the English & Writing Department and currently teaches an Intro to Poetry service learning course with the support of the Foley Center. In the interview below, she discusses her course and why she thinks service learning is so important on a college campus.

An Interview with Dr. Catherine Swender:

For the last eight years, Dr. Catherine Swender has taught an Intro to Poetry class at Spring Hill College. Her students go into a local Mobile elementary school. They are split into groups and they serve at different elementary classes and do creative poetry writing with the students. The Spring Hill students work with third, fourth and fifth grade classes.

Dr. Swender believes that this type of service-learning allows her students to develop leadership and responsibility. Dr. Swender allows the Spring Hill students to do all of the prep work and they are in charge of the class. The service-learning is also a way for her students to see that what they do is important and their actions matter. Dr. Swender believes that service work allows her students to take more ownership and risk with their own writing. Their writing is positively impacted by their service with the students.

Service- learning to Dr. Swender, is service that goes both ways. This type of service is built on relationships. They learn and grow from each other. She chooses to do service-learning because it is a way for her to be more creative with her own teaching and gives her a strong sense of validation that her teaching is impactful. Dr. Swender also hopes that her students’ eyes would be opened to issues such as racism, poverty, education gaps, and other social injustices by forming relationships with people that are different from them.

When asked about her relationship with the Foley Center, Dr. Swender is very thankful that the center has a presence on campus. She feels as if she can go to the Foley Center if any problems come up regarding her service site. The Foley Center also set her up with the community partner that her students work with. She remembers that the Foley Center staff was excited when she first brought this idea to them and they were very encouraging with this project.

Dr. Swender would love to see service-learning continue to grow on campus. She believes that more departments and faculty could be involved with service-learning and hopes they will see the impact it positively has on our students. While there are a multitude of opportunities for students to choose from, Dr. Swender would like to see more services be offered for the students to do with the community partners.

Overall, Dr. Swender believes that, “Service-learning is deeply rewarding for the students. I love doing it and seeing how it affects my students. Without a doubt, it positively impacts them on and off campus.”