laurel Schwartz at a film festival for her documentaryLaurel Schwartz ’11 is currently a multimedia producer and social advocacy student at Columbia University. “Or, [I’m] a social scientist with a track record for getting things done,” she says.

After graduating from Mounds Park Academy, Laurel attended Scripps College, where she studied American studies and media studies. She has spent the last several years work at advertising agencies and PR firms creating media both for fortune 500 brands and for social advocacy causes. Additionally, her self-produced documentary about chronic illness appeared in several film festivals last spring.

We asked Laurel several questions so that you could get to know her better prior to MPA Talks!

What do you believe will be the greatest challenge our current students will face in their lifetimes and how do you see MPA equipping them to face that challenge? 

When I graduated from high school, I knew two things: first, that I was passionate about history and social change, and, second, that creativity made me tick. What I didn’t know was that one day, there would be a job that would allow me to use my creativity to make a difference in the world. MPA is so remarkable because it is an institution that truly allows each student to find what uniquely gets them fired up in the morning and helps students imagine opportunities, solutions, and even jobs that don’t exist yet. MPA equips students to follow their curiosity for the world.

We ask our students to dream big and do right. Do you feel that call to action is important to the future of our society and if so, why?

There are many people who can dream of a better world–who can dream of justice, equity and peace. Translating that dream into actually doing the work to achieve that world is far more difficult, but just as important. For MPA students, dreaming big and doing right is more than an educational philosophy. For MPA students who have thought critically about the world, engaged in intellectual curiosity and followed their passions, dreaming big and doing right is a responsibility.

What book are you currently reading? Would you recommend it?

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (for the third time!). At MPA, I learned to love and appreciate stories that do not resemble my own as a way of expanding my outlook of the world and leading with empathy. Adichie presents one of the single best coming of age stories I have ever read. And, because I live in New York, where I walk/commute/live with my headphones in 95% of my waking hours, my current favorite podcasts are “Terrible, Thanks For Asking” (by Minnesota’s own Nora McInerny), “Call Your Girlfriend,” and “This American Life.”

Who inspires you to be better and how?

Young people, particularly middle and high schoolers, inspire me. They are smart, they are curious, and they have voices that deserve to be projected in society a million times louder than their current volume. They’re showing up for their generation in new, revolutionary ways every day. And, it makes me darn happy.

What have you created that you are most proud of?

Recently, I wrote, directed, produced and starred in a short documentary about chronic illness. The film screened in several festivals, won ReelAbilities NYC and was featured on “The Mighty.” While the accolades are significant, I’m most proud of the response I’ve received from other people who are chronically ill who have told me this is the only time they’ve seen their life truthfully represented on screen–THAT is why I do this work.

Purchase your tickets to join us for the fifth annual MPA Talks on Saturday, November 10, 2018. This re-imagined event is designed to bring us together to gain new perspectives and be inspired. The social hour and hors d’oeuvres will begin in the Gallery at 6 PM, followed by the featured speakers’ presentations from 6:30-7:30 PM. Tickets are $20 and include the hors d’oeuvres, dinner, and presentations. Tickets are limited to 50.

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