Student Spotlight

Truman Scholar finalist finds passion in serving others

Junior Sarah Oliver came to OSU knowing exactly what she wanted to do when she arrived in Stillwater. She jumped right into her biochemistry major and never looked back.

“I had some really great teachers in high school, and I got excited about it,” said Oliver, who was recently announced as one of 194 national finalists for the prestigious Truman Scholarship. “During my time here, I have been able to see how it applies to research.”

Oliver has since added a pre-law option to her biochemistry major. She wants to work in patent law, applying her biochemistry major to biotechnology patents for sustainable agriculture or medical advancements.

Her passion for agriculture and medical advancements stems from her travels around the world. 

“My mother is from the Philippines, so from the age of 7 I’ve had the opportunity to spend several summers at her native village,” Oliver said. “It was different growing up from a young age and seeing the things that I saw. It’s a very different way of living. There’s a lot of poverty and a lot of my friends grew up in small huts or things that I hadn't seen. It’s really influenced me growing up to see a culture that’s so different. It’s influenced how I wanted to interact with people in the U.S.”

Oliver has also spent time in Belize, India, Sri Lanka and France. On a study-abroad trip with OSU, Oliver went to India and Sri Lanka to study sustainability and research. She visited school labs and facilities at the universities there, along with veterinary projects and children’s schools. 

“We had 12 people in total go on the trip and no one had the same major,” Oliver said. “It was really interesting to see the different majors on the trip because you would see one thing, and someone will look at the same scenario and say, ‘This is what I see.’ I got more out of the experience through that.”

Oliver is a member of the Honors College at OSU and is the president of the living learning community in Stout Hall. She has already signed up for her fourth year to live there.

Oliver endured a rigorous application process for the Truman Scholarship throughout her junior year. She went through an initial OSU process and was chosen to be one of the three institutional nominees. She is the only finalist from OSU, which last had a Truman winner in 2014.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship was created by Congress for those who want to pursue a career in public service. The scholarship places heavy emphasis on service and leadership. If chosen, Oliver would receive a scholarship to pursue graduate or professional school after graduation.

The Truman Scholars will be announced in mid-April, but Oliver is already looking to law school and the future. She was also recently announced as a 2018 Women for OSU scholar.

“Five years down the road, I’m hoping to have my juris doctorate,” Oliver said. “I've had opportunities both here at OSU and during summer internships to see what the research looks like for sustainable agriculture and medical advancements. I want to take the things that people are finding and apply them to the real world for people to use.”