Author, educator to speak Nov. 4

Award-winning author, poet and educator Mary Swander will discuss multicultural teaching and writing when she presents “Arts Education: At Home and Abroad,” an admission-free talk at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, in Room 102 of Lanigan Hall.

A distinguished professor of liberal arts and sciences at Iowa State University, Swander is well known for her 1995 memoir “Out of This World” which chronicles a year she spent living among—and learning from—an Amish community in Iowa.

“A life of eloquent simplicity is celebrated in these pages,” Publishers Weekly said in a review. “This poet’s traverse of a farmer’s year forms an inspirational memoir of a modern pioneer woman.”

Swander most recently authored “The Desert Pilgrim,” a book about Swander’s journey to New Mexico to find traditional Hispanic and Native American healers to help her recover from a car accident.

Swander has also published three books of poetry, “Heaven-and-Earth House,” “Driving the Body Back” and “Succession.” She has translated “Driving the Body Back” onto the stage and also co-authored a musical, “Dear Iowa.” These theatre presentations have been produced across the Midwest and appeared on Iowa Public Television.

The prolific educator has also been a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition Sunday” and has published work in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Nation, The New Republic, Poetry magazine and National Gardening Magazine.

Neelika Jayawardane, an assistant professor of English at SUNY Oswego and a former student of Swander, spearheaded bringing the professor to campus to discuss multicultural teaching and to share experiences from working and living among several very different cultures.

“Long before I met her, I had heard her on NPR, speaking about the importance of the arts in rural areas,” Jayawardane recalled. “I had also heard about what a fabulous educator and mentor she is from my friends. . . . Because of Mary, I learned how to have a positive mentoring relationship with my own students, sharing a love for learning, books and intellectual development.”

Jayawardane praised Swander’s longstanding dedication to multicultural learners inside and outside the classroom, including establishing a study-abroad program connecting Iowa State students with the educational system of Trinidad and Tobago.

Swander has earned honors that include a National Endowment for the Arts Grant for the Literary Arts, the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, two Ingram Merrill Awards, the Nation-Discovery Award and a Whiting Award from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation.

Swander’s talk is sponsored by the Artswego Performing Arts Series, the SUNY Oswego English department and the Institute for Interdisciplinary Educational Studies.

For more information, call 312-4581 or visit Swander’s Web site at

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(Posted: Oct 13, 2004)