WIU Alumnus Honored by National Association of School Psychologists
March 24, 2014
MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University alumnus Mark Swerdlik has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).
Swerdlik, who is a professor of psychology and coordinator of the graduate program in school psychology at Illinois State University (ISU), received his master's degree from WIU in school psychology in 1972. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in school psychology from Michigan State University in 1976.
"My position includes coordinating our two graduate programs (Ph.D. and specialist programs), teaching graduate students in school psychology the professional issues in school psychology seminar and a doctoral seminar and practicum in supervision of school psychological services," Swerdlik said. "I also supervise the clinical work of second year and more advanced doctoral students in our campus clinics (ISU Psychological Services Center and ISU Multidisciplinary Psychoeducational Centers) and their work in area schools."
The NASP Lifetime Achievement Award is given to a member of the school psychology field who has devoted their professional life, at least 25 years of service, to improving the field. The Illinois School Psychologists Association nominated Swerdlik for the award.
Swerdlik credits WIU for providing him with the entry-level training he needed to support his more than 40-year career in school psychology.
"I have worked as a school psychologist in the public schools of Illinois and Michigan and as a university educator of school psychologists," he said. "At WIU, I learned what the field of school psychology actually was, its history, ethics and professional standards, and developed entry-level professional skills and the professional dispositions necessary for effective practice. I also was exposed to my first professional role models, one of whom, Dr. Tom Fagan has served as a lifelong mentor and adviser."
From his time at Western, Swerdlik said he fondly remembers the professional associations he formed with his classmates, as well as his professors.
"Our professors created a supportive learning environment that facilitated the development of lifelong friendships," he said. "I still keep in touch with a number of my classmates from our school psychology program for the last 40 plus years. My fond memories include us studying together and learning about the exciting field we were all entering. I was single at the time, so a number of us literally spent full days and most of the evenings together attending classes, participating in field experiences and studying for our courses."
Another connection to WIU Swerdlik maintains is his work with current faculty members who he taught during their time in graduate school. WIU Psychology Professor Tracy Cruise learned from Swerdlik at ISU prior to being hired at WIU.
She and Swerdlik are currently working with others to collaborate on a supervision course for current and prospective school psychology supervisors in Illinois.
"Mark is an intelligent and competent school psychologist and trainer, but his most notable quality is his dedication to his students and to the profession as a whole," Cruise said. "Mark seems to take great pride in staying in touch with his former students and continues to provide them with ongoing professional development opportunities. He is a selfless individual, who readily shares his time and resources with all those he can."
WIU Assistant Professor Julie Herbstrith was also one of Swerdlik's students and said she feels honored to have learned from him.
"I have a great deal of admiration for Mark, both personally and professionally," she said. "As a trainer of school psychologists myself, I can only hope to be as influential to my students as he has been to me."
Swerdlik said he also collaborates with Director Ruth Kelly of the WIU psychology program and Professor Emeritus Paula Wise in working together as part of the inter-university council of Illinois school psychology program and the Directors of University School Psychology Programs (DUSPP).
"Mark is a terrific colleague and friend," said Wise. "Not only are we proud to have him as an alumnus of our program, but the ties created between our two programs - WIU and ISU - have been a real source of strength over the past 40-plus years. The award could not have gone to a better person."
Kelly added that it has been an honor to work with Swerdlik over the past 20 years of her career.
"I was very pleased to find Mark so welcoming to me when I moved from Minnesota to Macomb and changed my career focus from being a practicing school psychologist to a trainer of future school psychologists," she said. "My colleagues in public schools had mentioned that collegiality was less present in higher education compared to P-12 schools, so I was pleased to find colleagues in academia who were supportive of me. Mark, along with Paula Wise, helped me make that transition to academia relatively painless. I was pleased that Paula had guided the School of Psychology program at Western in its long transition of training competent professionals for a field of school psychology, but she, like mark, also emphasized the collegial relationship between current students, interns and alumni."
Alumni of Western's School Psychology program are encouraged to join "WIU School Psycholog" group on Facebook to stay connected with current program events and catch up with alumni and former faculty of the program. Alumni awards, such as Swerdlik's, are noted on the group page.
Swerdlik said he returns to WIU about every two years to attend the ISU-WIU fall football game along with former colleague WIU psychology Professor Jeff Laurent, who formerly taught at ISU.
Recently Laurent said Swerdlik's lifetime recognition is well-deserved.
"We have maintained a friendship throughout the years fostered by our common interest in history and sports," Laurent said. "Every year I've been at WIU, we've been sure to attend the WIU-ISU football game. Mark particularly looks forward to returning to Macomb for those games."
Laurent said one of the reasons Swerdlik received the award was because of the relationships he has established with people.
Among those relationships is the one he sustains with his mentor, Fagan, who served as director of the WIU Department of Psychology from 1969-1976.
"Mark was among my early graduate students in the WIU school psychology program, completing his master's degree in 1972," Fagan said. "He then entered the highly competitive Ph.D. program at Michigan State University. He returned to Illinois and has been a very active voice for school psychology for decades. His work at the state level, and as much so at the national level, are widely recognized among practitioners and trainers across the country. He holds accolades from several groups and the recent Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of School Psychologists is a fitting tribute to his long lasting contributions to our field. I am proud to have been associated with him in training at WIU and throughout his career as a colleague. He is a fine person with a fine family and a solid career. It doesn't get any better. He has brought pride to the entire WIU community."
In addition to his academic accomplishments, Swerdlik led efforts to help establish the statewide Illinois School Psychology Internship Consortium, which provides internship placements for school psychology students nationwide.
For more information about the WIU Department of Psychology, visit wiu.edu/psychology