Midland Tech graduate earns stripes at Harvard

June 11, 2014 

Sara Oswald

COLUMBIA, SC It wasn’t long into Sara Oswald’s career at Midlands Technical College when her professors knew she was destined for academic greatness.

But even the Cedar Creek resident says she was surprised by the heights she achieved when she graduated from Harvard last month.

Oswald received an associate in arts degree from Midlands Tech in 2011 and went on to earn a bachelor of liberal arts degree from Harvard, becoming the first Midlands Tech student to graduate from the Ivy League school.

“I’ve gone from Midlands Technical College to Harvard University due to a combination of tenacity and patience,” Oswald said. “The support I’ve received from both Midlands Technical College and Harvard’s faculty and staff has granted me the confidence to achieve the greatest dreams.”

Oswald earned most of her credits online through the Harvard Extension School, where she graduated cum laude. She also took some classes in-person, including an overseas summer program and received a Harvard’s Dean’s List Academic Achievement Award for graduating with a GPA greater than 3.5.

Sandi Oliver, Midlands Technical College vice president for student development services, said Oswald’s successes are no surprise.

“Early on in during her time at Midlands Technical College, it became clear that Sara was not only a model student but also was a strong leader. She consistently dedicated herself to helping other students succeed,” Oliver said. “I know this is just the beginning for Sara, and I can’t wait to see what other great things her future holds.”

Oswald first learned about the opportunity to transfer to Harvard after being named to the South Carolina All-State Academic Team, which annually recognizes the academic achievements of students enrolled in the state’s two-year colleges. She was contacted by a Harvard admissions representative who encouraged her to apply to the school as well as for a scholarship she eventually received.

Oswald said her total out-of-pocket cost for her bachelor’s degree, including her Midland Tech tuition, was less than $2,000. And she credited her time at Midlands Tech for helping spring-board her post-secondary academic career.

“There is no way I could have gone to Harvard without graduating from Midlands Technical College,” she said. “I had to go to Midlands Tech to get the credits I needed to show that I was Harvard material.”

Oswald has not locked in on a specific career path but wants to maintain her South Carolina roots and work in the state. She said she will go wherever she can best use her talents.

“My wish is that my academic journey serves to inspire my fellow South Carolinians, no matter their age or background, to be fearless in pursuing their goals,” she said.

A legacy of learning

Special birthday greeting go out to Alma Baxter Ulmer of Orangeburg, who turns 101 this week.

Baxter’s is a legacy of education. While she never attended college, eight of her 10 children graduated from four-year colleges while two others earned two-year degrees. Five of her children received master’s degrees and several others, along with many grandchildren, have gone on to pursue careers in secondary and higher education.

Friends and family will celebrate this Saturday with Ulmer during a party in Orangeburg. To their well wishes, we add our own.

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