Feature

Sarah Swensen ’26 Pursues Dream of Advocating for Human Rights

The Editors at Jury of Peers present insightful, inspiring stories about LLS students.

For many years, Sarah Swensen ’26 was focused on caring for herself and her family. Now, she’s pursuing law school as well to fulfill her calling to advocate for victims of discrimination and systemic racism.

Swensen is finishing up her second year in the Hybrid JD Evening Program at LMU Loyola Law School (LLS), which allows students to earn a top-ranked JD in four years with a regular on-campus commitment of one night a week. No stranger to alternative schedules, she received her GED after dealing with health issues that required more than 10 surgeries from age 16 to 26. She then worked in finance for 10 years so she could pay her medical bills and also support her elderly parents, who are both cancer survivors. In 2017, she donated a kidney to her father. The living donor transplant process felt like a full-time job at times, she said.

“I’m fortunate enough to have the privilege of taking care of my parents after they took such good care of me,” Swensen said. She continues to care for them today.

After several years of taking night classes at Orange Coast College, Swensen transferred to Cal State Fullerton and graduated with a degree in sociology while working as chief operating officer of Redwood Lending Services, a boutique finance company.

She had always wanted to be a lawyer, Swensen said, but thought it was out of reach. She’s appreciated the role of advocates since her teen years, when her medical conditions were often ignored because she was a young woman, and during her career in finance, where she experienced sexism.

However, the 2016 presidential election and events in the years that followed, such as the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements and the antisemitic rallies in Charlottesville, inspired her to do more than go to protests on weekends and talk about the issues with friends.

“If you have the calling to be an advocate, you owe it to yourself and to others to answer that calling,” she said.

Drawn to Loyola’s hybrid program, which allows her to commute to campus from Irvine just once a week and continue working full-time to support her family, and Loyola’s social justice programs, prestigious faculty, and reputation for developing successful attorneys, Swenson says she has never been more challenged – or more fulfilled.

“From the faculty, who are incredibly supportive and encouraging, to my colleagues who are now some of my closest friends, the people are the best part of the program, hands down,” she said.

Swenson urges others who are joining the legal field as a second career or are juggling work, family, and other responsibilities to take the leap and pursue their JD at Loyola Law School. She’s seen how all students receive the tools they need to succeed – which, for Swensen, may be as a civil rights litigator or policymaker. “Whatever I decide to do, I know LLS will get me there.”

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