Lauren Swenson is a fourth-year journalism student from Toccoa, Georgia. (Photo: submitted; Graphic: Sophia Haynes)

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Lauren Swenson

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

For me, choosing journalism as a career was never a question. As a child, I hopped onto a tall and narrow lightly-stained wooden stool and spoke to the camera about everything that had happened and what exciting things would come next. I’ve actually wanted to be a journalist since I was seven-years-old, and it’s still stuck after all these years. It was then, at the age of seven, that I realized how fun and exciting storytelling could be.

Grady College is actually the only reason I transferred to the University of Georgia. I was born and raised an Alabama fan … Roll Tide! Until I went to Grady’s journalism camp the summer before my senior year of high school, UGA was not even on my list of schools. It was the first time I felt like I really connected with people like myself: outgoing, friendly and determined. I knew then that–Bama fan or not–I was going to Grady, and it ended up being the best decision I ever made.

Favorite show you’ve binge-watched?

My favorite show will forever and always be Gilmore Girls. It’s actually what inspired me to be a journalist in the first place, and the witty screenwriting of Amy Sherman Paladino always hits home. I’ve been binging Cable Girls and Schitt’s Creek recently!

What are you planning to do after graduating?

Upon graduating, I would love to combine my interests in politics, lifestyle news and entertainment to break down tough and controversial subjects. I want viewers to feel informed and comfortable enough to hold open-minded conversations with their own friends and family. Once you understand someone’s backstory and reasoning, it’s a lot harder to see them as an enemy. They become a person in our eyes, and we can promote understanding, in all forms, at home.

Despite my southern roots, I’m a big city girl at heart. My long-term dream is to live in New York City and anchor for Good Morning America. Who knows … maybe one day you’ll wake up with your morning cup of joe and me on your television screen.

Favorite app?

Without a doubt, Shazam is my all-time favorite app. In fact, I think about 90% of my Apple Music playlist is songs that I Shazamed. It’s a total game-changer when it comes to finding music.

What has made your time in Grady special to you?

Transferring from Young Harris College, I assumed that I had left the feeling of a tight-knit community behind. I expected to come to UGA and be one of 37,000. But oh, was I wrong. Grady has exceeded my expectations in every way. It’s a community inside and out, and you’re only a number if you choose to be. The professors, faculty and alumni at Grady genuinely care about their students and want to get to know them.

Professor Dodie Cantrell and I reach out to one another–even throughout periods of quarantine–to talk about life, career goals, banana bread and everything in between. Dean Davis invited the ambassador team into his house for a home-cooked meal during midterms. Professor Lori Johnston opened up her home to students for chili and a movie. Dr. Parker Middleton and I have chats in her office. I am so thankful for these people and experiences.

Swenson works as a technical and production manager for Grady Newsource and anchored for the Election 2020 show. She also serves as a Grady Ambassador. (Photo: submitted)
Who is your professional hero?

Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts is someone I will always strive to be like. It’s evident how much she cares about the stories she reports on, and Roberts is someone that people inherently trust. She may be on television every morning, but her down-to-earth spirit makes her seem like your next-door neighbor. I hope to be that for people one day: the person they feel comfortable enough to trust with their stories.

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

Even from the time I was a little, some people thought my dreams were too big for a small-town girl like me. I always just figured that someone has to do it, so why not me?

I think tenacity is standing up against adversity, criticism and hardships to work for the life you always dreamed of. When things kick you down or when people make you feel like you’re not enough, take that and use it as fuel to drive your passions. Being tenacious isn’t just about doing what you should be doing. It’s about striving for things bigger than yourself and not letting anyone or anything stop you. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Favorite or unique hobby?

In a past life, I definitely think I was a florist! One of my biggest guilty pleasures is going to the Athens Farmers Market or Trader Joe’s and buying $20 worth of flowers to arrange. When I was little, my Grandma would seed wildflowers for me to pick and arrange during the summer, so she got me started early.

On the side, I’m also a self-proclaimed donut connoisseur. Trust me … I know all the best hole-in-the-wall bakeries in Northeast Georgia and beyond

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

This past January, I went on the annual Di Gamma Kappa trip to New York City. That trip is where I really found my #GradyGirlGang and connected with some really amazing people: both alumni and students. My best friend, Abby Bustin, and I were chosen to sit front row at The Tonight Show taping. It was everything I had ever hoped the experience would be and getting to share it with a friend was all the more exciting!

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Probably that I don’t have it all together all the time. I’m someone who likes to put on a perfect front, just like a lot of other people. College is hard, and I think it’s important to share what’s going on in our lives: the highs and the lows.

No one really sees the grind that goes on behind the scenes when you’re a Grady student, so underclassmen need to know that it’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed. After transferring into Grady, I felt ten steps behind the rest of my peers without similar experiences or connections. By working hard, investing in relationships and getting involved, I found my place and hit my stride.

Editor’s Note: Some of the above answers have been edited for length and/or clarity. 

The #ProfilesOfTenacity series–formerly the #GradyGrit–is a set of student features highlighting the strength, determination and leadership of students in Grady College. Stay tuned to see how #ProfilesofTenacity evolve in the future.

Date: November 12, 2020