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Bio Matters: Biotech program at Tulsa Community College opens doors for student

Jim Stafford: Program turns around career path of 48-year-old Armond Swift.
By Jim Stafford Published: July 28, 2013

At age 48, Armond Swift has sampled many professions with a jack-of-all-trades assortment of jobs through the years. Phone help in a call center. Watchmaker. Veterinarian's assistant. The oil field.

It's the sort of cobbled-together career path that is not surprising for someone who dropped out of Sand Springs High School twice before earning a GED instead of a high school diploma.

On this mid-July day, Swift was standing just outside a biotechnology laboratory in the Science and Math building at Tulsa Community College, discussing the dramatic turn his life took when he decided to enroll in the school's biotechnology program three years ago.

Swift found his place at Tulsa Community College on his first visit when program coordinator Diana Spencer, gave him a tour of the facility.

“We were walking through one of the rooms that has biological safety cabinets in it and I said ‘Oh my, are those full-blown bio-hoods?'” Swift recalled. “This wonderful woman said ‘Yes. You belong in this program.' I tell that story everywhere I go.”

Swift earned his Associate of Science degree at TCC, and the dominoes began to fall. The degree led him to complete his bachelor's degree at Oklahoma State University and now to graduate school at OSU, which he will begin this fall.

His ultimate goal? Earn a Ph.D. and work in a research laboratory for private industry.

Tulsa Community College is one of the founding members of the Tulsa Area Bioscience Education and Research Consortium, which today comprises nine educational institutions. The consortium offers a summer internship program that has created opportunity for students to explore the possibilities.

Swift's success story in the making is one of a growing number of feel-good stories spilling out of TCC's biotechnology program, which is less than 10 years old.

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