Capital Ideas: Robin Miner-Swartz

On more than one occasion Robin Miner-Swartz has been dubbed Lansing’s biggest cheerleader. Why? She genuinely loves living, working and playing here. And she has good reason to; she’s involved in everything from TEDx Lansing, to the NEO Center.
Miner-Swartz was born at Sparrow hospital and spent her first five years in Lansing until her family moved to East Lansing. When she was 11, she had an epiphany watching the Oscars. She wanted to be a film critic. And with that, she began paving the way towards that goal which ironically meant she didn’t have to take one step out of the region.

Lansing Lead the Way

This was what Miner-Swartz told herself, “’I just so happen to live in a city that has a daily paper and I’m pretty sure they could use a film critic, so that’s where I’m going to work. And, oh look, MSU is right here and they have one of the top journalism schools in the country. I guess I’m going to stay here and go to school.’ In my growing up mind, everything I needed in my world was right here. The good news is, as I got older I started to realize that everything is still here that I need, and so that’s kind of why I stayed. I stayed because my people are here [and] my community is here.”

After attending Michigan State, Miner-Swartz landed a job at the Lansing State Journal as part-time features copy editor. It didn’t take long for her to land a full time job working for the Today section (now the Life section) and the What's On Section. Her journalistic dreams were realized and Miner-Swartz was content … well, for almost 19 years. Then she decided she needed a change.

Building a Foundation

Miner-Swartz started cold-calling people who had jobs she was interested in pursuing and began networking with them over coffee or lunch. “I got a lot of good information that way and I made a lot of good friends. It helped me realize I wasn’t the only one who loved this city as much as I did.” She also participated in the MSU Alumni Association’s career services program to figure out how to reinvent her career path.

“I only knew how to talk about myself as a journalist,” she says. “[As part of the program] I had to write a personal mission statement. Mine included the phrase, ‘cheerleader,’ because that is sort of how I look at myself. I feel like I was sort of able to be a cheerleader at the paper by saying ‘look at all this cool stuff there is to do’. I have that institutional knowledge about the community and I feel like it makes me appreciate the growth more because I’ve seen it happen. I know where we came from and where we are now.”

Now, Miner-Swartz is working at a job perfectly suited for her journalistic, cheerleading ways. She is the director of communications for the Capital Region Community Foundation. “This is an organization I didn’t know existed even though I’ve lived in this community my whole life,” she says. “They’ve been around since 1987 and giving grants since 1990. CRCF has given out roughly $26 million in grants since then. The majority of it goes to nonprofits in the tri-county area. They were in need of someone to help tell their story.” Which is what she does now, tells the stories of the nonprofits in the Capital region that are supported by the Foundation.

“I feel slightly guilty saying this, but I told a lot of people this right after I started at the Foundation. I felt like I knew the community better in the first five weeks at the Foundation than I had in the last five years at the paper. I sat there and produced a paper, but because there were fewer and fewer of us, there was more to do and less time to go out and experience something.”

Work-Life Balance

Now, Miner-Swartz has ample time to get involved, partly because she does it for a living and mostly because she cares about her community. Aside from her work with the Capital Region Community Foundation, she also volunteers for TEDx Lansing and Lunch With a Purpose, sits on the board at the new NEO Center and is a member of YSG. “YSG has been like a revelation for me. If I had discovered a group like YSG ten years ago, I don’t think I would have been ready for it. Ten years ago I was still focused on how doing something would benefit me, how I would get credit for it,” says Miner-Swartz.

“To be a part of this loose network of people who don’t have personal agendas; that their only agenda is how much cooler we can make this city because we live here and we want it to be cool.  It’s like a new club of smart, engaged people that you get to hang out with. That to me is just a blast.”

Miner-Swartz’ cheerleading ways are infectious and impacting. Her love for the community exudes from everything she’s involved with, from her passions and volunteer efforts, to where she eats and how she communicates. You know this woman loves her city, and she wants people to see it for what it is.

“Lansing has had an inferiority complex about itself for a while … and perception is hugely important. And for us to all run around and say ‘you know, there is cool stuff here,’ and be able to back it up with real examples … I think eventually you can’t deny it.

Suban Nur Cooley is the managing editor of Capital Gains. She can also be found writing for her new blog, Poppy on a Kite.

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.


Capital Gains chats with Lansing “biggest cheerleader” Robin Miner-Swartz

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

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