Faculty, Goddard Graduate Institute, Undergraduate Studies
Residency Site: Plainfield VT
Eva Swidler grew up in Philadelphia and has there most of her life. After suffering through public school, she got a B.A. in sociology, then an R.N., and worked for five years, attended midwifery school at a medical school in New Jersey, and spent six years catching babies at birth centers. Then came a stint with Doctors Without Borders in Azerbaijan (north of Iran), after which she returned to midwifery and ran the recovery room at a feminist women’s abortion center to support her way through grad school. While she still maintains nurse-practitioner license, she no longer works clinically. Since getting a Ph.D. in environmental and world history at Temple University, she has taught at a variety of places, currently Goddard and the Curtis Institute of Music.
PhD in World Environmental History, Temple University
BA in Sociology, Temple University
AAS in Nursing, Community College of Philadelphia
Cert. in Midwifery, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Areas of Expertise
Environmental, Agricultural and World History; Historiography; Public Memory; Political Economy; World Economic Systems; Marxism; Public Health; Midwifery; Homeschooling and Unschooling
My ‘highest’ academic degree, a PhD, is in history. Thinking about the location of the present as part of a continuum between the past and the future best explains for me how this world came to look as it does, and where we might go next. Sustainability is, after all, a question of how we survive as cultures and societies that reach across the stretch of the years, so for me considering history is the logical way to think about sustainability.
My academic specialties are the less traditional fields of environmental, agricultural, and world history, because I am most interested in how all the parts of this globe fit together in that river of time, whether the parts are the human and non-human pieces, or the different places on the planet. Reflecting critically on the histories we tell, and the assumptions they are rooted in, connects particular stories to the deeper social points of view that generate them.
As a sociological thinker, sociology being the field of my undergrad degree, I also struggle with how the pieces of our personal lives fit together with the overarching structures of power in the world. How do our individual actions create big systems, and how can they challenge them? How do we think about right livelihood and our responsibilities to the world?
Twenty years earlier in life, I was an RN and certified nurse midwife, and I retain a passion for public health issues, which was fed by my experience working for an aid agency overseas in Azerbaijan. Public health, too, is a field that links the biggest and smallest scale, connecting an individual’s health with the politics and economics and culture that create the health of an entire community. At least as important as all these issues is the burning question of how we think deep thoughts and still revel in the joy of many moments. I mean, I love playing with my cat and loud music and fireworks, and being a mummer in the annual New Year’s parade in my hometown of Philadelphia, too. And I love Goddard and working with students.
My experiences with a wide variety of educational models, both living and learning with my fifteen-year-old daughter (who has never been to school) and in teaching in different colleges and universities, have taken me ever further from the conventions of ‘teaching’, and left me cherishing this place. Here, at Goddard, students truly engaged with the wider world use their skills and energy to make change, both personal and social, and I am excited to be able to have a part in that.