As Lock Haven's featured student speaker in December 2019, Mia Swales offered a message of optimism with a vision to become an inspirational leader for others.
"Be fruitful and multiply, lead with love, embrace grace, and spread it," Swales said in her speech. "Continue to be the light and never underestimate the hope that you can give to someone else. Success is what you want it to be. Heart goes a long way."
The oldest of five children, Swales, who graduated with a communication degree, has done that and more since enrolling as a graduate student in Lock Haven's clinical mental health counseling program. Just one semester away from earning her master's degree, the first-generation college graduate has spent the bulk of her journey dedicating her time, talent, and treasure to aiding countless Lock Haven students in their pursuit of success.
In August, Swales was hired as a student success specialist for Commonwealth University-Lock Haven's Student Success Center. She is also the director of Lock Haven's new Multicultural Center, and serves as the advisor for student organizations: the Black Student Union, the Multicultural Advisory Activities Council, and the Latino Student Association.
Her responsibilities include working with students in the university's Academic Success Program, conceptualizing multicultural programming, increasing minority student retention, and student mentorship. Her goal when interacting with students is consistent; to instill hope by helping them reframe their perspectives, and by encouraging them to identify their "why."
"Some students just need someone to believe in them. Some just need an ear. Some just need someone to connect with," Swales said. "Others might just need to hear a success story or to know that someone else has been in their shoes and the obstacles they're facing can be overcome."
"Showing students that they are courageous and helping them become a shining light goes a long way in making them feel hopeful about their ability to succeed," she added.
No stranger to achieving success of her own, Swales also spent time as a resident assistant and admissions ambassador during her time as an undergraduate, was a key influencer in the establishment of Lock Haven's food pantry, the Haven Cupboard, and is a former student trustee.
Her dedication during her undergraduate studies resulted in her being a three-time recipient of the Saundra K. Hybels Memorial Scholarship, which she said greatly alleviated financial stress for her and her family. Those awards are also a catalyst for her wanting to one day fund a scholarship of her own to assist future Lock Haven students.
Swales is a proud supporter of the Lock Haven University Foundation, volunteering her time to assist the university's Advancement Office as an advocate for fundraising initiatives like its annual All In Day of Giving and has automatic donations sent to the Haven Cupboard from every paycheck.
"How can a student focus on their academics if they are hungry? Food insecurity is real, and it is important that we look out for one another and give back," Swales said.
Originally from Lusby, Maryland, Swales was drawn to The Haven by its scenic beauty and homelike atmosphere. She credits the university with much of her personal and professional growth and is proud to now call Lock Haven home.
"I am Haven Proud because The Haven Family stood by me through my highs and lows,"
Swales said. "The Chesapeake Bay raised me, but Lock Haven and these Central Pennsylvania
mountains kept me."
"I have many mentors at Lock Haven that have watered my roots and invested in me," she added. "For that reason, I will always be grateful. I will always pour back into others, the same way so many mentors have done for me."
"Mia serves as a wonderful example of how heart, optimism, and a spirit of determination can lead to success. Mia continues to give back to the Lock Haven community and we're grateful that she's chosen to make The Haven her home. Her passion will continue to have a positive impact in the lives of students," said Bashar W. Hanna, Commonwealth University president.
Swales intends to continue working in higher education, specifically in student success and/or diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is very passionate about minority student retention and has not ruled out aspirations of pursuing a career as a dean, vice president, or president of a university.
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