Student Spotlight: Balancing Act of Work, Family and Education, Melanie Swanson (BS '21)

March 23, 2020

A 4 a.m. wakeup call is crazy for some, but for Melanie Swanson, it’s the start of her day while pursuing an online bachelor’s degree in environmental science through Arizona Online.

Currently working in finance and living over 200 miles from the main University of Arizona campus, Melanie Swanson (BS Environmental Science '21) wants to pivot her career—motivated to make an impact on the conservation of wildlife and the environment.

Time doesn’t wait for you, it takes dedication to go after your passion."

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Excelling with Time Management, Dedication

Living in Prescott, Arizona, Swanson balances online classes with her full-time jobs as a credit manager for a wholesale distributor and supportive parent to her kids


Melanie Swanson enjoys kayaking
Melanie Swanson Swanson enjoys kayaking with her dog Otis, and now wants to pivot her career towards one of conservation.

“There have been many challenges in my life—whether personal or time-wise—that have tried to stop me from achieving my goals, but I know this will be worth it." 

Swanson is no stranger to a packed day with early mornings and late nights, starting and ending her day at her computer watching lectures and completing coursework. But with a strong work ethic and wise time management, she excels. 

“Melanie did an exemplary job in my online class, Critical Zone Science. Facing tight deadlines, she always submitted thorough, deeply insightful answers to complex environmental questions.” - faculty Rivka Fidel

Time working in finance helped her support her family as a single parent and taught her many valuable skills. But now with her kids older, she’s thinking critically about steps to follow her passion for conservation.

Swanson decided an online degree with its flexibility was the best chance to further her education. Loyalty to her home state and the specificity of an environmental science degree drew her to the University of Arizona.

“The environment never ceases to amaze me. I want a career that takes steps toward helping it.”

200+ Miles Didn’t Stop This Volunteer

Even with a tightly packed schedule, Swanson still found the time and energy to be involved with her department on the main campus in Tucson.

 “Volunteering was a great opportunity to network with my department—I want to be connected to the university I attend.” 


Melanie volunteered for the Arizona Envirothon Symposium in January 2020
Melanie Swanson (third from left) volunteered at an event that taught Arizona high school students about water quality, forestry and wildlife.

In January 2020, she volunteered at the Arizona Envirothon Symposium, helping set up for the event and sharing her enthusiasm for environmental science. The event brings over 65 Arizona high school students to the University of Arizona to learn all about wildlife, forestry, and water resources for the largest national environmental education competition.

“The fact that she drove all the way to Tucson speaks volumes to her dedication. I cannot wait to see where her environmental career goes." - Scott Cowell, Arizona Envirothon faculty organizer

After finishing up her degree in the next 18 months, Swanson plans to look into internships, ideally getting her hands dirty outside. She aspires to work for an organization that not only conserves our natural resources, but also develops techniques to help our societies understand and adapt to climate change.