The sky’s the limit for Claudia Swan.
For Swan, her childhood ambition was crystal clear. In the eighth grade, she was asked what wanted to be when she grew up.
“My answer was boss,” she said smiling. “Even then, I knew management was in my blood.”
And, she was spot on. Swan received a Bachelor of Business Administration with a minor in Supply Chain/Human Resources (HR) Management in 2011 and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in HR Management in 2016—both from the University of Houston-Downtown’s (UHD) Marilyn Davies College of Business.
The Mississippi native grew up in a home where the importance of education was essential. For Swan it was so important that she chose to be homeless for 10 months while she worked on her master’s degree.
Why? “Life,” said Swan. “Finding a new place to live kept falling at the bottom of the list. It was a mega balancing act. And to be honest, it wasn’t a priority.”
For two years, she balanced a graduate degree with a full-time job as a manager at Petco and caring for her ailing parents. No one knew she didn’t have a place of her own. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Swan worked three jobs. Thanks to sheer will and determination, Swan graduated with a 3.94. Swan didn’t stick around to walk for commencement. When she received a job offer, she relocated, within seven days, to Washington, D.C., where Swan now works as an On-Road Supervisor with UPS.
Swan visited with UHD to share some insight on her motivations, challenges and successes.
I’m most proud. “Finishing my MBA while both of my parents were in the hospital. I wrote my last paper for my capstone classes from Memorial Hermann where both parents were on the same floor of the hospital at the same time.”
Words I live by. “The greater the diversity the brighter the light of opportunity” (from a plaque given to her in high school from her mother).
The hardest thing I had to overcome. “My mental blocks of what a country girl from Mississippi could do. My goal was to be confident and able to speak to anyone, anytime at any place about anything.”
The one thing that keeps me motivated. “My family.”
My role model(s) are. “My grandmother, who was the oldest of 13 and had an eighth grade education, who instilled in me that there is no excuse to not excel. Also, UHD’s Dr. Sarah Walker (associate professor of management)—she’s very influential, brilliant and amazing mentor and educator.”
The best lesson I ever learned. “Not to give up…no matter the situation.”
My greatest achievement. “The impact I had through my life to affect and connect with others. Feeding more than 1,000 Houstonians twice a week along with my mother through our non-profit, Transitions, Inc.” (Swan served as vice president, chief operating officer, and the “enforcer” of all the aspects of the self-funded business where she developed the income stream for the organization).
Most treasured possession. “My woobie—a handmade blanket—from my grandparents.”
When all is said and done, I want people to know. “I overcame.”
Five years from now. “Married with four kids. And of course, in the C-Suite.”
Why UHD? “I applied to five universities and was accepted to all of them. I wanted to go out of state and my parents said, “No.” I paid for my college education and UHD offered flexible hours, affordable tuition and for the non-traditional students who were like me.”
UHD enabled me. “To tap into my full potential showed me the path—from my electives to my core curriculum—to truly define what I was interested in as a career and to not put my education in a box. And ultimately, tap into my full potential to get me where I am today. UHD teaches what employers are seeking in the real-world.”