Introducing this Year’s Induction Speaker Annette Schwabe, Ph.D.

By: Karen Duarte - Published: March 27, 2019

By: Karen Duarte - Published: March 27, 2019

Dr. Schwabe has thrived throughout Florida State University. As a former professor in the Department of Sociology and former Director of Liberal Studies, she brings forth her personal and academic experiences to the Honors Program.

The baby boomer, a native of St. Paul Minneapolis, Minnesota (commonly known as the Twin Cities), is the youngest of seven children. Growing up, Dr. Schwabe liked both the outdoors and school. With six other siblings and neighborhood friends there were always people to do things with and we often played outside (even in winter in Minnesota). After graduating high school, she had an interest in the natural sciences, especially biology.  

Dr. Schwabe attended a small state school in Minnesota and was initially planning to major in public health. However, she switched majors because she felt that the instruction in the program was lacking and they did not offer enough courses to prepare her for post-graduate work or school. “I did not think the program offered enough field experience to help launch a career in public health, so I ended up going into communication disorders, sometimes called ‘speech and hearing sciences’,” Dr. Schwabe said. “The undergraduate speech-and hearing sciences program was great; I received a lot of individual attention and good clinical training in a fairly large university.”

Because her undergraduate program was small with good and close mentoring, she developed the tools to enter the top Master’s program in the field at the University of Washington. Her experiences there underscored that good programs set a very high bar for competency and for developing a work ethic, but also provide the resources to help students succeed. The resources included faculty who were top-notch researchers and instructors, intensive mentorship, and state-of-the-art labs and computers.

“It was a major awakening for me and this is something I think about in the Honors Program all the time,” she said. “The courses I took were rigorous. I was afraid I would fail to meet the demands and not fit in with the cohort, but I looked around and reminded myself of the resources and of the people who cared and were willing to spend time with me. I also made sure to take advantage of everything in the program and university around me,” she added. “The lesson for any program is that we need to set a high bar but offer enough resources and much support to help students attain it.”

After graduate school and working as a clinician for a few years in Seattle, Dr. Schwabe’s partner got a job offer in Connecticut, so they packed up a big yellow van and moved across the country.  Having acquired transferable professional skills, she was able to start her own private clinical practice and worked in various local hospitals. When her husband later accepted a job in New York City, she was again able to draw on her training and experience to find job options in her field.

“In New York, I practiced as a clinician in two hospitals, one of which primarily served middle working class Italians and Dominicans. I became a manager and hired and trained people, while also preparing for external accreditation and securing program funding,” Dr. Schwabe said. “The environment was very demanding and extremely busy mostly because the hospital did not have enough staff to meet the demands of patient care.”

Dr. Schwabe decided to take a short break from the clinical world and became a recruiter in a small firm on Madison Ave. Her job involved recruiting doctors and clinical practice managers to work in medical clinics and hospitals around the country.  However, she decided that she wanted to go back to working in a profession and use her degree. She was not sure she wanted to return to working in a clinical setting and became interested in pursuing a career centered on health more broadly. While working in hospitals, she noticed that social circumstances such as social class, immigration status, and gender clearly shaped whether people got ill in the first place and whether they got better. This led her to pursue a degree in medical sociology and connected back to her original broader interests in public health.

“Curiosity about the social factors around health and drive to learn more led me to my Ph.D. program in Medical Sociology. After I finished my Ph.D. in 2002, I went back through some of my old transcripts and my first declared major in my undergraduate was sociology,” she said. Her career plans and professional passions came full circle. “Experiencing new things and being willing to drop a major early out is not always a bad idea. Changing majors can be an opportunity for exploration and also allows you to follow your passions.”

Dr. Schwabe believes that having a strong work ethic and willingness to roll up one’s sleeves to complete tasks are key ingredients for success.  “Being a teacher is hard work and we often put in many hours of ‘invisible labor’ to help students or to do university work building and supporting programs.”

She believes that networking and sponsorship have helped her shift into the positions she has had at FSU. The Sociology department trusted her as a teacher and gave her the resources she needed to get the job done, which allowed her to connect and build trust with many people around the university.  

She emphasized the importance of networking. “There is the idea of sponsorship, where mentors help you build a reputation through network that is meaningful and substantive,” she said. “It is useful for students to know that networking and having sponsors is important as they will talk about you in positive terms and recommend you for things when you are out of the room… they speak on your behalf.”

Dr. Schwabe’s favorite part of her current job is making sure the honor students have the resources and kind of program they need to excel and knowing that they are receiving a remarkable education.

“Honors students are unique… the Honors Program (offerings and structure) does a great job preparing these students to succeed and provides them with the right resources. The staff is also incredible,” Dr. Schwabe proudly expressed. “It is about receiving that satisfaction of knowing we are doing the job well (on behalf of students).”

Aside from working on campus, Dr. Schwabe enjoys reading, cooking, being physically active, including her new passion, surfing, and traveling. She has traveled through Europe and Great Britain, parts of Latin America, Turkey and other places in Asia, and Hawaii, one of her favorite places to relax.

Phi Eta Sigma is proud to have Dr. Schwabe speak at the 64th annual induction ceremony.

“It has been an honor to have been invited to speak at PES and I am so proud of everyone who is getting inducted,” said Dr. Schwabe.