Living the dream

Michelle Swanson possesses a passion and devotion to her students that shines through in her bubbly and positive outlook on life, along with her love of helping others. Currently an instructor for the School of Music and also an advisor of music education, she was recently awarded the MWOne UNIque Advising Award. This award recognizes quality advising in availability, frequency of contact with students, facilitating student progress and other aspects.

Michelle Swanson

“I always wanted to teach here, and I never thought it would happen, but it’s a dream come true,” Michelle said.

Michelle was born and raised in Cedar Falls and attended the University of Northern Iowa, where she received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. This is her 20th year at UNI.

“I always wanted to teach here, and I never thought it would happen, but it’s a dream come true,” Michelle said. “And now teaching a methods course to college students, I get to teach them how to teach and so I feel like I am really doing what I am best at.”

Her teaching philosophy varies between the two classes. The methods class is for junior and senior music education majors, while the soundscapes course fulfills a Liberal Arts Core requirement. 

“In my methods class, I model for the students how a music teacher should teach,” Michelle explained, as she emphasized the importance of creating a caring and supportive community in the classroom. “When you are teaching music, you are teaching risk taking.”

In her soundscapes course, she teaches in a way that keeps the students interested, while also making the class thought-provoking and fun. “I like to take care of my students and empower them so then they can take care of themselves,” Michelle said.

Michelle keeps extremely busy throughout the year. In addition to teaching and advising, she is co-chair of the advising network, on the advising counsel, which aims at improving academic advising all over campus, “I do a lot of consulting with teachers and districts in Iowa, so I feel like I really make a difference for music education in the state of Iowa.” She also conducts the Children’s Choir.

For Michelle, her biggest joy is watching her students grow and blossom throughout their time here, becoming the best versions of themselves. She believes music creates a rich foundation on which the rest of your life can be based. Michelle intends to continue spreading her knowledge and passion for music and helping others to not just her students, but to everyone around her.