Carol Swain

Christian values of mercy, justice, love, compassion, and fairness strongly influence all aspects of my life as a teacher, researcher, and scholar. These values affect how I interact with students, colleagues, and strangers. I am a deeply spiritual person. I do not believe in chance meetings. Instead, I believe that each interaction with another human being offers a unique learning opportunity for personal growth and professional development. In many ways, I am an accidental academician who has found herself propelled into positions of power and influence that I never contemplated as a child growing up in rural Virginia. In fact, I did not choose academia as an adult. Academia chose me. As a consequence, it has been an uneasy fit. The values I bring into my professional role have emerged from a combination of experiences that have propelled an unlikely person into an unlikely role. A little about my background is relevant here. I am one of 12 children raised in rural poverty by parents who had little education. Our poverty was so great that one by one all 12 of us dropped out of school at around the 8th or 9th grade. Three of us earned high school equivalencies. I dropped out of school after completing the 8th grade, married at 16, and had three children before becoming the first in my family to reach college. Progressive career ambitions, many mentors, setbacks, and unexpected breaks mark my path to success. I have never seen the world the way other people around me do. I have struggled for place and voice. I have always been transparent about my life, even the difficult and embarrassing parts because I believe that some lives are to be shared and mine is one of them. As an academician, I value free speech, diversity of opinions, open dialogue, and equal treatment. These values flow from my belief that no one side or person has absolute truth because of our flawed natures and the imperfections of our knowledge base.'I believe that the best policy solutions emerge when we engage in free and open dialogue with individuals and groups with whom we disagree. These views affect the choices I make when I put together course readings and how I present myself and my thoughts to the students. First day of class'I try to present openness, transparency, truth-in-advertising. I let students know that I am concerned with the whole person and I make myself available by sharing my home phone number and cell phone. I treat my students the same as I would want someone to treat my children and grand children if they were confronting challenges away from home. Mine is an open door policy.

My Life

Favorite Quote

I have always marched to the tune of a different drummer

Friends describe me

Intelligent, loyal, active, controversial, and spiritual

My hobbies

Ballroom dance, pilates, and drawing

Fantasy dinner guests

Abraham Lincoln and Sojourner Truth

Best advice I ever received

'Go to college.'

My worst subject in school


In college I drove

Red Chevy Vega

If I weren't a professor, I would

be a motivational speaker and inspirational writer

Favorite books

Paulo Coehlo's, The Alchemist, The Holy Bible, and C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters

Favorite movies

Stand By Me ('86), Forrest Gump, and the Mosquito Coast

Favorite city

New York City

Favorite coffee


Nobody knows I

I have no secrets. I am transparent

My latest accomplishment

Cambridge Press's publication of a new book I edited titled