These two alums found education, athletics, Greek life, professional experience, and, eventually, love. Now they found another way to give back.
In the Fall of 1998, Jim and Jen Schweigert were Jim Schweigert and Jen Farrer—and they have a Gopher meet-cute for the ages. Both enrolled that fall at the University, and through shared classes at the Hubbard School and Greek life—culminating in Jim co-chairing Spring Jam and Jen serving as the Greek Chair in 2002—they became a couple. They have continued to take their lessons from the Hubbard School into their professional lives—currently Jim is the President of GroAlliance and Jen owns a Snap Fitness—and in 2006 became “the Schweigerts” when they married. They’ve always rallied for the Gophers and generously given to the University, but have found a “focused way to give back,” with the Jim and Jen Schweigert Endowed Scholarship.
The Schweigerts have established this scholarship to help support the next generation of Hubbard School students who achieve success in the classroom while also maintaining strong University involvement and working to pay their way through school. Schweigert Scholars will be under-graduate students enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts and able to demonstrate academic merit and financial need.
You both have a long history of loving the U. What hooked you?
Jim: I grew up an hour from Madison. Living in a small town, I wanted a different life experience—knowing the world is certainly bigger, to have that big-city atmosphere. I fell in love with the U, a world-class city right on the front door of this incredible, beautiful campus. It was a phenomenal experience to have the nature of the campus paired with Minneapolis. I wanted to get as many life experiences as I could and take full advantage of all the opportunities school gave me. I did an internship in London and served on Hall Council for Territorial Hall and was a counselor for New Student Weekend.
Jen: I grew up in St. Paul and went to Harding. I never thought I’d go to the U of M because it was close, but I got a really good financial aid package and an awesome scholarship from Harding and the U, and I thought, ‘Gosh, it would be silly to turn all of that down.’ It was nice I was close to home, but I immersed myself into the full college scene, getting involved and joining a sorority to build a network of friends and feel like I belonged in a big-campus atmosphere. I liked that the J-School was small and selective. I really loved the school, and the people I worked with and the opportunities. Even in high school, I felt it was important to have a well-rounded education, so I volunteered, as an admissions ambassador for the U, a peer advocate for the Aurora Center and Panhellenic president in 2001-2002.
When did the idea for donating this money come about and how?
Jen: One of my good friends from high school who also went to the U is a Carlson grad. I was talking to him a few years back, and he had set up a scholarship through Carlson. I had never thought of that before and I thought, how cool is that? Usually this comes up when you are retirement or estate planning, and so much is planning for when you are not here. I thought, wow, how cool would it be where we could start something now and see it and actualize it and it continues to grow while we’re living so we get the benefit of helping someone right now and potentially get to meet them? So it’s generous, but selfish, because we can see the benefits.
We had been giving to the U quite a bit, through athletics, because they’re good about calling. And I thought, let’s be more directed in our giving and set something up so it has a purpose. We wanted to give right away, because we were in a position to do that. We both went to the J-school, so it is a nice little niche to support. It made perfect sense.
What did you have in mind when you conceived of the idea to include community participation as a requirement to receive the scholarship?
Jen: It’s easy to stick in your bubble—just academics or sports—but if you aren’t exposed to different opportunities, you’re missing out.
Jim: We also really felt that there are a lot of scholarships that are all-merit, all-activity, or all-academic based, so people go after those specific scholarships, but it inadvertently becomes a one-note experience or not as well rounded. Just like in athletics, you want to have exercises that build all muscle groups—it’s the same way for the college experience. You’ll miss some-thing and ultimately you don’t develop completely as a person. We really want to incentivize that. Cross-cultural experience is becoming more important all the time. Exposure to all diversity is good—perspectives, ideologies, how people see the world. Interacting with a diverse group of people makes you a better person and more understanding.
You were both active across lots of U opportunities: Greek life, athletics and more. Why did you choose to focus on journalism students?
Jim: Our entire lives started there—not only our professional lives. We were trained in verbal and written communication skills. You never lose that, and you can always take them with you. They’re phenomenal skills to have, no matter what career you go into later on. The nature of the J-school allowed our relationship to develop, working closely together in classes and tight-knit groups, pursuing the same dreams and aspirations.
Jen: We hope that by doing this we can give someone else—or many people down the road—that same kind of little boost or encouragement along the way and take these life skills with them forever.
What would you tell other potential donors about why you should give now?
Jim: We want to make sure someone’s life is changed in a really positive way and that brought us to this. We’re hoping it fosters good conversations with other people: Start now because people need it now. If you can give it now, look at how much better off students are set up and the next generation of people are set up. We want to inspire other people in our age range, so they think, yeah, instead of waiting, why don’t I start something now, even if it’s small?
Interested in giving to the School like Jim and Jen? Learn more about our Director's Circle.
By Katie Dohman (B.A. '03)