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Elizabeth F. Swanson, Class of 1996

Chicago, Illinois

“In today's ever-changing environment, what do you see as Amherst's greatest opportunity or opportunities?”                
Amherst: B.A., cum laude, English and American studies '96; Women's field hockey, captain, 1996, and Division III All-American, 1993-1995; Women's golf, 1993; Awarded Commitment to Teaching scholarship for academic achievement in the field of education

Further Education: M.P.P., with honors, education policy concentration, University of Chicago, Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy '02; University of Chicago Student of the Year (ASPA); Harris School Service Award; Editor-in-chief, Chicago Policy Review; Representative, Public Policy Student Association

Alumni Activities: 1821 Society member; Noah Webster Circle member; Active in the Amherst Club of Chicago

Professional: Deputy chief of staff for education, Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago (2011-present); Executive director, Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation, which invests in people and programs that enrich the life experiences of Chicago's children (2009-2011); Officer, Office of Management and Budget, Chicago Public Schools (2007-2009); Director, Office of Extended Learning Opportunities, Chicago Public Schools (2003-2007); Director of community initiatives, Chicago Public Schools (2002-2003); Special Projects, Consortium on Chicago School Research (2001-2002); National Service Fellow, Corporation for National Service (1999-2000); State programs director, Constitutional Rights Foundation (1998-1999); Special projects coordinator, Massachusetts Service Alliance (1997-1998)

Community, Not-for-Profit and Volunteer Service: Board of Directors, Lincoln Park Zoo (2013-present); Board of Directors, Chicago Public Education Fund (2011-present); Advisory Board, One Million Degrees (2010-present); Board of Directors, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (2007-2011); Board of Directors member (2007-2011) and chair (2009-2011), City Year Chicago; Vice chair, Board of Directors, Federation for Community Schools (2006-2011); Dean's Leadership Council, Harvard Graduate School of Education (2010-2011); Board of Directors, Illinois Network of Charter Schools (2009-2011); Next Generation Leadership Advisory Council, Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid (2008-2009)

Personal: Married to Brian C. Swanson '94; children, Maggie (10), Anna (8) and John (5)
Elizabeth Swanson.jpg
I have spent my career devoted to the field of education--for the past three years as Mayor Rahm Emanuel's deputy on education, working to improve public education in Chicago. While the challenges and opportunities facing Chicago Public Schools and Amherst differ in size and scope, from a systems perspective they are similar: addressing the rising cost of education, properly allocating limited capital resources, ensuring (and expanding) a culturally and economically diverse student body and understanding emerging technology's profound effect on teaching and learning. The success of both institutions depends on the ability to think creatively, respectfully evaluate and debate new ideas and approaches, and institute sensible change while staying true to core values about what an educational institution must provide every student.

Amherst has always thrived on these principles, and it is now uniquely positioned to emerge as a leader in this ever-changing educational world. We have an influx of talented new leadership and faculty who bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the college. We recently hired our first provost to provide critical strategic and organizational vision. We completed a successful capital campaign to fund necessary infrastructure investments. Incoming students are as talented and impressive as ever. And over 22,000 alumni remain connected to this incredible institution and support Amherst's goal of remaining a leader in higher education.

I believe that these resources, properly focused, assure Amherst's continued success, and I would be honored to have a role in channeling them. My particular interests are exploring ways Amherst can continue to attract and support a socioeconomically diverse student population in the face of skyrocketing costs; embracing technology in ways that support the growth of Amherst students, while ensuring that technology does not intrude on the instructional intimacy that makes the college so unique among its peers; and expanding experiential learning opportunities for students to apply their academic pursuits in real-world settings.

I came to Amherst from a small-town New Hampshire public school of 500 students. I now work to improve education for 500,000 predominantly low-income students. Amherst was my bridge, providing the academic, social and cultural experiences I rely on every day. It would be a privilege to continue to serve this institution that provided some of the most significant experiences and opportunities of my life.

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Upcoming Events

St. Louis - Tour of the "Currents 109: Nick Cave Exhibition"
February 27, 2015 | 5:30 p.m.

Washington, D.C. - First Happy Hour of 2015!
March 3, 2015 | 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

Philadelphia - Amherst "Nerd Night"
March 5, 2015 | 5:30 -
7:30 p.m.

New York - Reception with President Biddy Martin
March 11, 2015 | 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

Treasure Coast - Williams Alumni Jazz Band
March 12, 2015 | 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.