Carthage President John Swallow looks to the future of the college

Carthage President John Swallow looks to the future of the college

John R. Swallow took office in July 2017 as the 23rd president of Carthage College.

He brings an entrepreneurial approach and highly relevant experience as a former senior administrator, trustee, and faculty member at three small, private liberal arts institutions.

Seeking to connect Carthage’s pioneering legacy to an even more promising future, President Swallow began his term by connecting with many alumni and students, while immersing himself in the College’s history.

Swallow graduated from Sewanee: The University of the South (Tennessee) in 1989 with honors in both mathematics and English literature. He went on to earn two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in mathematics, all from Yale University.

He joined the faculty at Davidson College (North Carolina) in 1994, and taught there for 17 years — 10 of them in an interdisciplinary humanities program.

President Swallow returned to his undergraduate alma mater in 2011. He was appointed Sewanee’s provost the next year and its executive vice president in 2014, holding responsibility for the institution’s strategic planning and execution, day-to-day operations, and operating budget. Under his leadership, applications increased by 63 percent and diversity among the faculty rose to 18 percent, in line with the student body. Externally, he embraced the unofficial role of “deputy mayor” in Sewanee by overseeing downtown planning and partnering with civic groups.

President Swallow has written articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Huffington Post, plus an undergraduate textbook and more than two dozen research articles in mathematics. His wife, Cameron, is a high school math and English teacher. They have two children in college, Bard and Sophie. Swallow recently delivered this exclusive Q&A with The Smart Reader.

Q: What was your first impression when you took your first step onto Carthage College?

I first noticed how beautiful and compact the campus was. It’s wonderfully located on the Lake, and just a few miles from the downtown of a growing city.

Q: What is the most enjoyable part of your job as President?

I really enjoy helping students, faculty, and staff succeed in making a difference.

Q: What are some challenges you face as President? 

An essential challenge is that as the number of graduating high school students in the Midwest declines, there will be more competition among colleges and universities for those students.

Q: Do you see any areas for improvement at Carthage?

I envision enrolling more first-generation students at the college and expanding Carthage’s impact in southeastern Wisconsin and beyond. While doing this, we must ensure that we take seriously the Lutheran concept of vocation.

Q: How do you see the relationship between the college and Kenosha?

The relationship between Carthage and Kenosha is vital. In the early 1960’s Kenosha leaders invited Carthage to move to the area in order for the city to have a four-year institution of higher education. The college is committed to honor that invitation by providing great value and opportunity for Kenoshans.

Q: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges that students face today?

Two challenges come to mind immediately. One is the rising rates of anxiety and depression, nationally. Another is the difficulty in managing one or two jobs while being enrolled as a full-time student.

Q: After two years as the Carthage President, what do you see as your biggest accomplishment or most memorable project so far?

I am proud that Carthage is the first institution in Wisconsin to undertake a significant tuition reset.

Q: What are your goals for Carthage in 2020?

We hope to launch one or two significant new academic programs while continuing to look at how we can further reduce equity gaps

Q: What does a typical day look like for the President of Carthage?

 If only there were a typical day — no day is the same! An ideal day for me as president would be an hour or so talking to students, faculty, and staff; an hour developing a relationship with donors and institutional partners; an hour or two of meetings with members on my executive staff for understanding our progress and keeping us focused; an hour of phone calls, letters, and email; an hour or two of reading, thinking, and planning; an hour of exercise; and an hour or two watching a performance or attending a game. A typical day for me as president has a bit of all of these and also time spent traveling by car or plane.

Q: What are your thoughts on Herzing University moving to Kenosha?

I am thrilled to see more activity in Downtown Kenosha, which will be essential for development.

Q: Anything we missed that you want to talk about?

 My wife Cameron works with Better Angels, a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize our country. She’s also a member of the local bluegrass/Americana band Flat Creek HWY.

Quickfire Q&A with John Swallow

Q: Do you have any pets? We have one pet, a Basset Hound named Watson.

Q: What is your favorite Food? Tacos.

Q: Who do you look up to professionally? The late Theodore Hesburgh, who was president of Notre Dame.

Q: What is your go-to Karaoke song? America’s “Horse with No Name”

Q: Disney + or Netflix? Netflix, so far!

Q: Favorite local band? My wife’s band, Flat Creek HWY!

Q: Best vacation spot? Almost any new city around the world in which I can spend a week relaxing and exploring.

Q: Best advice you ever received: Know yourself. 

Q: Favorite hobby: Cycling.

Q: Favorite TV Show: Stranger Things

Q: Favorite Movie: The Princess Bride



Interview conducted by Donald Stancato and Cassidy Gillespie-Dipinto, Edited by Jason Hedman 

This story originally appeared in the January 16th 2020 issue of Smart Reader