• Kendra Swanson '07, Scientist in Residence for the Cedarburg School District

    "Being able to engage in conversations in a variety of topics helped me understand a bit more of this world we live in through the people around me."

Kendra Swanson '07

Immersing Herself in the  Luther Experience

“Luther helped me be a learner in a variety of areas,” Kendra says. She says she is attracted to the connections between ideas and enjoyed the diversity of discussions she had at Luther. Kendra says that this variety of conversations “has helped me understand a bit more of the world through the people around me.”

Kendra came to Luther planning to pursue a major in creative writing. In her freshman year, she was inspired by her Paideia and religion courses, as well as by working with dance professor Jane Hawley. With these experiences in mind, Kendra ended up creating a major in early English literature and applied arts through the Individualized Interdisciplinary Major program. “I was so enriched by the variety of learning experiences and connections, that the the inspiration for creative writing was truly taking place outside of that major.” Hawley’s Movement Fundamentals course was especially essential in Kendra’s Luther experience. Before taking the class, Kendra says, “I had lived my life as a non-coordinated, non-dancing person. Taking that course was a big personal challenge that helped me fall in love with the human experience in a whole new way.” Kendra’s individualized major used the art and dance programs and the English Department. Her final project featured a series of paintings and a dance piece based on one of her short stories.

Her Time in Nottingham

Kendra spent a year in Nottingham, England, taking classes at the University of Nottingham. Luther’s Nottingham program, she says, “instilled a sense of adventure in me and an interest in how history impacts our lives today.” The year abroad “broadened my understanding of the world and increased my desire to learn about it,” she adds.

Her experiences furthered her desire to create her own major. Kendra saw that “everything was so connected: art to literature to history to dance to natural science.”

While abroad, Kendra “had a job working in a sandwich shop, took courses in Chaucerian literature, sang regular vespers in a 900-year-old church, and played Renaissance music with amazingly eccentric people.” Kendra has always had a “consistent unsettled drive to explore.” Her experiences in Nottingham, and at Luther, were wonderful outlets for that.

Her Journey Beyond Luther

After graduation, Kendra went to Bratislava, Slovakia, to work as an English teacher with ELCA Global Missions. When she returned, she worked at her childhood camp, and was inspired to pursue environmental education. So she went to Northern Illinois University to earn a masters of science in education in curriculum and instruction, along with a certificate in environmental education.

In her current position as the Scientist in Residence for the Cedarburg School District, with the Riveredge Nature Center, Kendra continues to be an environmental advocate. She acts as a bridge between the Nature Center and the schools as an informal educator. The connections she explored at Luther help her to navigate her current job’s “magical and mysterious web of meaningful conversation,” she says. Kendra also continues to follow her passion for music, and has released three solo albums as a singer/songwriter.

Advice for First-Years

“Go in with an open heart and mind, and enjoy the ride of learning. Take an unexpected class that you might not ace. Also, drink plenty of water, get good sleep, and don't wear pajamas to class.”

—Kendra Swanson ’07