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Dr. Mickie Swisher Professor

3026-B McCarty D

(352) 273.3538|


  • Ph.D. University of Florida, Geography, 1982
  • M.S. Wayne State University, Geography, 1977
  • B.A. Eastern Illinois University, Geography, 1972

Curriculum Vitae: Swisher_CV


Dr. Swisher serves as the Director of the Center for Sustainable & Organic Food Systems. Her research focuses on enhancing the sustainability of contemporary food systems, including environmental and economic sustainability and addressing issues of inequalities within the food system for both producers and consumers. Most of her research is multi-disciplinary with colleagues in the biological sciences. She currently serves as a Co-PI for eight extramurally funded agricultural research projects and two international projects that focus on rural development with an emphasis on food systems. These projects address the needs of farmers for more environmentally protective and economically productive ways of producing high-value horticultural crops, including organic production systems. Her contributions in these projects include two primary components. One is to enhance the flow of information between researchers and the end users of agricultural research, often farmers. Her work has included the development of new processes and procedures that combine producer and/or consumer knowledge and experience with those of the biological researchers to permit more rapid advances in experimentation and improve biological research outcomes. She is the lead, and sometimes the only, social scientist on these projects. Dr. Swisher serves as the state co-coordinator (with Dr. Cassell Gardner at Florida A&M University) for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program in Florida. She collaborates extensively with faculty members from several colleges and departments at the University of Florida and other universities. She also collaborates closely with farmers, farmer organizations, non-profit organizations, and community-based organizations to conduct research, teaching and extension programs. Her international experience includes extended periods in Costa Rica, Haiti, Honduras, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Cameroon. She served for six years as a member of the Board of Directors of the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), an international consortium of over 50 universities and research institutions that offers undergraduate and graduate research and educational experiences in Central & South America and South Africa. She served as the Coordinator of the Center for Rural Development for Zamorano University in Honduras, an internationally recognized private agricultural educational institution. She currently serves as Co-PI for a project funded through the United States Agency for International Development in Haiti, and this project has brought 30 Haitian students to the U.S. for graduate education. Dr. Swisher serves as the advisor for two of these students. She also serves as PI for an exchange program between the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria in Brazil at this time. This program focuses on the development of joint research programs between faculty members at the participating institutions.

Research Interests

Mickie's research focuses on how individuals make complex, strategic decisions under conditions of high risk and high uncertainty. Complex, strategic decisions are those that affect life course outcomes. People make such decisions in the face of many unknown factors, often including incomplete information, or perhaps today by exposure to an overwhelming amount of information of unknown reliability. My students and I explore such decision-making in a broad range of venues. Recent examples include research about topics like these. How do single female parents with limited fiscal resources deploy social networks to deal with recurrent food shortages in the household? How does exposure to individuals and organizations that support gender equality affect young women’s life aspirations in developing nations? How do settlers in the Brazilian Amazon determine whether to dedicate land and labor to conserving natural resources? How do farm families incorporate long-term family and business goals into daily decision-making about farming practices? How do the structure and function of social networks of farmers in Haiti affect farmers’ willingness and ability to adopt improved technologies? Much of the work that my students and I do focuses on disparities that exacerbate the challenges of strategic decision-making for women, minorities, and the economically disadvantaged. I work with multi-disciplinary teams comprised of faculty members in several departments at UF and at other institutions in the US, international colleagues in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and individuals representing various types of private-sector organizations. I am a methodologist and my role on research teams reflects both my subject matter interests and my expertise in research design and methods of data collection in the social sciences.

Her research concentrates on

  • life course outcomes
  • risk
  • social inequality
  • social networks
  • strategic decision making
  • research design
  • research methods