Alum of the Month: Meg Szawlowski ’16


It’s common knowledge, at least among girls varsity lacrosse players, that Coach Jen Fulcher runs an intense program. That’s not to say she’s mean to her players, but rather that she makes them work, and work hard, and work often.

So it’s no surprise, really, that recent graduate and Central Connecticut State University sophomore Meg Szawlowski is planning on joining the police force after she graduates in two years with a major in Criminal Justice. In a lot of ways, Szawlowski’s time as a Wildcat was a perfect training ground.

“[Coach Fulcher] was definitely the best coach I’ve had,” Szawlowski, 20, said. “The mental and physical prep was unmatched compared to anyone I came in with in my [CCSU] class. I was so prepared; no one was ever going to outwork me. She taught me that winning mentality.”

Szawlowski – “Swaz” as she’s known — said Fulcher consistently pushed her players “to do things we didn’t think we could. She was always bringing us to that next level. We were always getting better every day.”

“Lax here was like nothing else; [Coach Fulcher] changed who I am,” Szawlowski said. “Without what I went through with her I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

Who Szawlowski is today, she said, is someone who knows what she wants, and isn’t afraid of going after it, whether athletically or professionally.

“If I put my head to something, I’m doing it,” Szawlowski said. Citing a work ethic instilled in her by Fulcher on the field, she said, “I’m not quitting, I’m getting it done. That’s just always how I’ve been.”

Coach Fulcher said she learned just as much from Swaz as she taught her.

“Anyone would be blessed to work with Swaz,” Fulcher said “She came with an internal motivation to be her best at lacrosse. She was one of the hardest workers I ever coached.”

Her lacrosse career, as well as her decision to become a police officer after graduation, have roots in her family as well as her time on Fulcher’s field.

A Northampton native, Szawlowski was a four-year varsity player at Williston and is currently a co-captain at CCSU. [She’s currently out for the remainder of the season with a leg fracture, but won’t need surgery and will return for next year.] Though she said she’s “had a stick in my hand ever since I can remember,” her three older siblings certainly helped foster that competitive spirit.

Her sisters Ashleigh, 32, and Courtney, 29, both played lacrosse at University of Massachusetts; her brother Michael, 32, played football and lacrosse at American International College (AIC) in Springfield, Massachusetts; her sister Bridget, 26, played lacrosse at AIC.

We were definitely competitive growing up,” she said.

Now, Michael is an officer with the Massachusetts State Police, Bridget is a case manager at the Hampshire County Jail, and her uncle, James O’Donnell, is a Lieutenant with the Mass. State Police.

Szawlowski said her decision to pursue a career in law enforcement comes back to the idea of testing your limits, those same limits Fulcher helped her cruise right past as a Wildcat.

The job of a police officer, Szawlowski said, is “something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. You get to help people every day and do something different every day. I like to be active and help people as much as I can.”

Szawlowski said she grew up hearing stories “every day” of the life of an officer,” and that’s part of what excites her. “There’s not a day that’s the same,” she said. “That’s definitely a risk, but that’s something I’m so interested in.”

Szawlowski said there are very few females in her criminal justice program. But she isn’t out to be a trailblazer; she’s heading into this career because it’s what she’s always planned on.

“I’m not doing it to prove anything to anybody,” she said. “I know I can do it. I’m always going to go after things I want.”

Of course, Coach Fulcher isn’t surprised with Szawlowski’s career choice, and the determination behind it.

“She is a kid that has an internal compass to do the right thing, thinks of others, is community-minded, is a giver, and is tough as nails,” Fulcher said. “It’s a great combination of someone that will be warm, kind, hardworking, responsible, and has the mental and physical toughness to handle any challenge.”