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Oustanding grad's capstone blends German and architecture, highlighting social justice

Portrait of Lauren Swartz, a double major in architecture and German at ASU.

Lauren Swartz, who started college as a STEM major, realized her passion laid in a field that allowed her to be more creative. She is graduating from the School of International Letters and Cultures with a double major in landscape architecture and German along with a business minor. Courtesy photo

May 08, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

This semester, Lauren Swartz is graduating from the School of International Letters and Cultures with a double major in landscape architecture and German along with a business minor.

Swartz, who started college as a STEM major, realized her passion laid in a field that allowed her to be more creative. She was always interested in design but didn’t consider it until the pandemic hit and she had time to reconsider what she was going to study.

In high school, her peers were taking Spanish and French language courses so she decided to do something different by taking German, the less popular class. Her family is from the Eastern Europe area, so that also inspired her to be more involved with her heritage.

Swartz said taking German classes has been the best part of her time at ASU. She enjoyed how passionate her professors were about their specific fields of study and the wide range of classes available through the School of International Letters and Cultures. The small class sizes were also very beneficial.

“That’s probably been the highlight, getting to work with professors in a one-on-one environment,” Swartz said.

Swartz combined her knowledge of landscape architecture and German history to take a unique approach for her capstone. She designed a sustainable memorial in Berlin, Germany, that honored the marginalized queer histories spanning from the Weimar Republic to modern times. Swartz's ability to merge her two majors and make meaningful connections through this project, alongside her commitment to social justice, highlights her creativity and innovative thinking.

After graduation, Swartz plans to move back to her home state of Colorado where there is a job in landscape waiting for her. However, she is still considering attending grad school to continue her German studies in hopes of teaching at a university someday.

“I think my overall life goal is to end up more in the German route rather than the landscape route. And hopefully, someday I’ll move to Europe and experience that culture a little bit more,” Swartz said.

Swartz was awarded various scholarships while at ASU, including the National Merit Private Scholarship, the ASU President’s Scholarship, the Robert J. Kestelik Scholarship and The Manning School PTA Scholarship. She is also a member of the Sigma Lambda Alpha Honor Society and the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. Swartz was awarded ASU’s Design Studio Award in fall 2021, fall 2022 and spring 2023. She has also made the Dean’s List every semester.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: When I started college in 2019, I started out in engineering. That freshman class had a normal first year, but over the summer of 2020 I did a lot of soul-searching and realized I really like architecture and design, so I switched to architecture. Since I love the outdoors, I decided to switch to landscape architecture specifically. As for German, I've been studying it since high school and it's always been a passion of mine. I wanted to continue my German studies and try to become as fluent as I possibly can; I like it a lot more than design. It's one of those languages that is hard to completely master, so it's a lifelong learning journey for me.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I'd say the biggest thing is really homing in on time management. In high school, you think that you have a good system going but in college, the workload of assignments is amplified tenfold. Especially as a double major, the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to manage coursework for two completely different majors but to make sure I get it done on time with all of the competing deadlines.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: There are a couple of reasons why I chose ASU. One reason I was drawn to the university is because it offers a wide variety of majors. But the biggest reason is that I received a scholarship from my middle school that made it more affordable for me to go out-of-state than in-state. Also, you can't beat the weather!

Q: Which School of International Letters and Cultures professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I'd have to say Professor Lozinski-Veach. She's part of the German department and she's been great. Her biggest goal as a professor is to try to get her students to ask more questions and to critique everything around them. I think that's so important, especially today, that you have the ability to think for yourself. We need more people who teach that and who give students the opportunity to express themselves while learning.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: First is to stick with it. It's difficult but it will be worth it in the end. Second is that what you put into college you'll get out of it. So if you want to have more of a social experience, you've got to go to social events. If you want to be successful academically, you've got to put in the time. Whatever you put in, you'll get back out.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I really like Learning Support Services on the first floor of Durham Hall. It’s probably my favorite spot because it has huge windows to people watch and it's always really quiet to study.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I'm planning on moving back to Colorado. I've got a job lined up with a high-end residential landscape firm and I'm hoping that within the next two or three years I'll have my landscape architecture license. I'm honestly going back and forth about going to grad school for German and maybe even teaching at a university.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: There’s a lot that needs to be done with the environment so I would probably donate it to some type of environmental nonprofit that helps with climate equity, especially in areas like South Phoenix that really struggle with inadequate cooling and shade coverage.

Q: What would you say was your biggest accomplishment at ASU?

A: My biggest achievement while at ASU was being awarded the Robert J. Kestelik Scholarship from the School of International Letters and Cultures. I consider it my biggest accomplishment because it touches on my German capstone and my passion for LGBTQ+ rights. I put a lot of time into it.

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