With family history at Arkansas Tech University dating back to the sixties, Dr. Bethany Swindell has instilled family values, touched many lives, and established a remarkable reputation at Arkansas Tech. Dr. Swindell is a professor in the Department of Emergency Management and is consistently challenging, influencing, and pushing her students to reach their fullest potential.
Dr. Swindell graduated with her Bachelor of Emergency Management from ATU and quickly began a career in the emergency management profession, traveling to assist in disaster response. She describes this eventful time as a learning lesson she can translate for her students.
She added, “It’s not just what is emergency management. It’s dealing with people because disasters don’t pick and choose who they impact. They don’t care what economic status you have, or what color your skin is. And so, we teach our students that, and I really stress that to my students as well. And so, I hope that they’re learning that we’re all people as well.”
Dr. Swindell credits part of this lesson to her upbringing at Arkansas Tech University. She noted that the same halls she ran through as a kid influenced her to make sure her students were comfortable in their emergency management studies. And if she can make it comfortable for them, it can make them more successful.
However, Dr. Swindell’s extensive success in the emergency management field and in the classroom does not stop there. She also regularly traveled for disaster response. Anytime there was a disaster in the state she was the Lead of Transportation. She also contracted with The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to travel and do mutual aid work alongside them. She worked in the emergency management field for nine years, unremittingly gaining
experience and knowledge that can only be achieved from being in the field.
After taking a break from emergency management and pursuing other passions, she returned to ATU after being asked to teach an adjunct class. During this time, she also pursued additional education, including a master’s in leadership with an emphasis in disaster management, followed by a doctorate in public policy with an emphasis in homeland security.
Dr. Swindell was able to complete her doctorate at the same time her brother, also an ATU professor, finished his doctoral degree. They join their mother, a prior ATU professor, who holds a terminal degree. With being a professor in her bloodline, it is no surprise that Dr. Swindell exceeds in the classroom. Emergency Management student DeMarco Britton, a junior from
Arkadelphia, describes Dr. Swindell as “one of the most caring professors you will ever have.”
Demarco added, “She truly wants us to succeed in every aspect and is one of the best people you’ll ever meet.”
Inside the classroom, Dr. Swindell engages in a hands-on, interactive approach. Rather than lecturing the entire class, she utilizes a “mini-lecture” then flipping the classroom to introduce group discussions that are tied into readings and real-world events. She also brings in real-time and relevant case studies, allowing students to experience events in their field as they are happening. A favorite phrase Dr. Swindell uses is “today’s current events are tomorrow’s case studies.”
Outside of the classroom, Dr. Swindell involves her students in disaster response as closely as possible, making the world around them her classroom. With community ties and support from ATU, as well as her work flying drones for local first responders, Dr. Swindell’s students get the opportunity to practice responding to disasters in the community as they happen. They regularly are able to be involved, allowing them to get real-world, innovative experience. For example, when flooding took place in 2019, ATU students were able to respond on-site to help, whether they were bagging sand or going door-to-door to hand out letters of notice.
Dr. Swindell describes emergency management as inter-disciplinary, going on to explain that it applies to any degree you can obtain on campus. With this, she encourages her students to find what their passion is, then apply it to emergency management. She encourages students to broaden their options, think outside of the box, and pursue their passion while also exploring their interest in working in the emergency management field.
With her innovative teaching styles, Dr. Swindell has made an impact on campus, especially on her students. However, her work in the classroom as both a professor and alumna are not the only remarkable features of her experience at ATU. As previously mentioned, her bloodline at Tech dates to the sixties, going back to her grandfather. She describes her childhood as growing up running through the halls at Tech, first starting with her grandfather, then her mom. In fact, her favorite memory of ATU was spending time in several historic buildings with her grandfather, the second-in-command for FAMA at the time.
With a love for ATU, a passion to continuously learn, and innovative teachings to foster a love and knowledge of emergency management to her students, Dr. Swindell continuously works to impact the lives of students each and every day.