Alicia Swords

Professional Headshot

Affiliated Faculty:

  • Women's and Gender Studies
  • Latin American Studies

Specialities:  Public Sociology; Social Movements; and Social Change

I began teaching at Ithaca College in 2006.  I love our students.  I’m proud of their enthusiasm and sense of justice. 

I teach courses in the area of Public Sociology:

  • Social Change - How has social change taken place in the United States? 
  • Public Sociology -  Learn about sociologists who study the world in order to change it.  How do they do what they do? 
  • Gender, the Environment and Global Change - How do gender and the environment relate, and how do these relationships change?  Study the social and ecological relations of patriarchy, colonialism, industrialization, development and globalization.   
  • Social Movements - How do people demand rights, stop wars, stop global warming, end poverty?  Can you imagine that another world is possible?  
  • Community Organizing - Learn history, theory and practice of organizing, in class and in the community 
  • Global Sociology - How do regular people relate to big, global processes, like colonialism, development and globalization?
  • Research Methods - How do sociologists study the social world around us?  Quantitative and qualitative approaches.  


  • I am involved in ongoing Action Research about political education strategies of social movements in Latin America and the United States. I'm especially interested in movements about rights: workers' rights, economic rights, indigenous rights, environmental justice and human rights. Overall, I'm interested in the ways that social movements promote alternative forms of development.  Read more here: Contesting Development: Critical Struggles for Social Change
  • One branch of my research focuses on the Zapatista movement.  Here's an article I wrote about Neo-Zapatista Network Politics.   
  • I study U.S.-Latin American relations, focusing on political economy and (im)migration.  I wrote a book with Ron Mize (Cornell University) called Consuming Mexican Labor: From the Bracero Program to NAFTA, which was recently published by University of Toronto Press.  Here's a video of a talk Ron Mize and I gave at Mann Library at Cornell University in April 2011.  Here's an article we wrote in Latin American Perspectives about the relationship between tourism and development.      
  • I'm part of the Food Dignity Project, an effort to create community food systems that foster food security.  One of my roles is to connect students with community-based learning opportunities related to food justice.    
  • I employ Community-Based Learning and Service-Learning in some of my teaching.  Here's an article I co-wrote with Richard Kiely (Cornell University) about Movement-Centered Service-Learning.   

More about me and my work: 

I grew up in Syracuse, NY, after living in several small towns as a small child.  My undergraduate degree is in Environmental Studies and Politics from Oberlin College.  My Ph.D. is in Development Sociology at Cornell University.  

I became a sociologist because I found sociology offers important tools both for analyzing the world and for changing society. 

I'm grateful for opportunities to learn and work with a wide range of people.  These relationships help my teaching and research be socially relevant and accountable.  Based on these connections, I can frequently facilitate student engagement with efforts for social change locally, nationally and internationally. 

I worked for two years in the Dominican Republic with a small, grassroots organization called Oné Respè.  The organization focused on human rights work and base community organizing with children, youth and women’s groups in Dominican and Haitian communities.  I also have an ongoing connection with Justicia Global, an international socio-political organization founded and based in the Dominican Republic.

While doing my Ph.D. at Cornell in Development Sociology, I learned about social movements with colleagues involved in other movements around the world.  My dissertation project was about the popular education strategies of the organizations that support the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico. With a Fulbright Fellowship, I had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from scholars and organic intellectuals in Chiapas.  

In Ithaca, NY, I'm a former member of the leadership team of the Tompkins County Workers Center.  Students can get involved through their Service Learning for Social Justice program.  

I am on the board of CUSLAR, the Committee on US-Latin American Relations.  Students can learn about the history and politics of the U.S. in Latin America by getting involved with CUSLAR through internships, travel and writing for their newsletter.  

I have also connected my students with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier through learning opportunities with their Hunger Education program.    

Nationally, I work with the Poverty Initiative, a network of organizations dedicated to building a movement to end poverty led by the poor across color lines. Through the connections with the Poverty Initiative, students can learn about the leadership of the poor, challenge myths about poverty, and take part in mini-immersion and immersion programs.