LIVINGSTON COUNTY – Meeting with Cynthia Oswald, a sharp dresser always who is always ready with an engaging anecdote, makes you sit a little straighter in your seat. As a high-energy local female powerhouse, Oswald discussed her steady professional advancement within Livingston County. It is clear that Oswald’s success comes from self-advocacy via her principles for education and leadership. Her message is an important one for students and other professionals; if one has strong principles, it can carry them further than whatever level of education has been achieved.
Oswald has been steadily gaining a vast array of achievements under her belt. Currently, Oswald acts as the Director for the Center for Inquiry, Discovery, and Development for SUNY Geneseo which helps outstanding students secure and manage grants for educational projects worldwide. Oswald also gives back to the community as the Director of Public Relations and Foundation for Noyes Health, where she used her financial expertise to aid in raising funds for building a new hospital wing. Oswald was the first female Livingston County Chamber President, and expects to travel to China next year via the Clinton Global Initiative.
“You could say I’ve come full circle,” said Oswald, 57. “I began at SUNY Brockport, graduated from Empire College, and now I’m back at Geneseo. I’ve received an inexpensive and quality education that was close to home, now it’s time to give back.”
Oswald recalls entering college in the year of 1976. “I was 19 at the time, I came from a working-class family that didn’t support my decision to go to college, let alone support me financially. My first year I worked part-time as a shoe salesperson while attending school.” Oswald registered herself for classes, drove herself to orientation—a strong self-advocate from the start.
Oswald is an emblem of another time; she described to me how her female peers were starting families and raising children. After her first year at Brockport she withdrew, following suit. Oswald married and had three children, but that didn’t stop her from constantly looking for other ways to advance herself professionally.
“I always volunteered: it’s a great way get educated,” said Oswald. “My sons asked me to be a Cub Scout Den Leader and, in turn, I asked the Cub Scout association what leadership positions were available. Soon, I was on my way to being educated on how to train future den leaders.”
Oswald embodies that the best way to learn is through doing, and as a woman, took the responsibility of child-rearing and created a professional opportunity for herself. Asking for leadership positions, learning through teaching, and consistent advocacy for herself helped push her ahead.
Oswald brought her developing advocacy for herself and other women across the Atlantic, to help female business leaders in a trip to Africa. Oswald had questioned her ability to connect with other female local leaders in Ghana.
“We were from separate worlds, I wasn’t sure how to we would find common ground,” she recalled. “In the end, it was our day-to-day lives that brought us together. There is so much expected from women; childcare, a career, maintaining a household. Connecting on a basic level helped build special relationships and trust.”
From Den Leader to Ghana, this all follows Oswald’s mantra, “Too often we say no or maybe, for whatever reason, but we really need to evaluate goals and see saying ‘yes’ is the key to creating opportunities.”
For all that Oswald has done, she cites her drive for personal success as a consistent trajectory toward positive personal and community development. “Carving a place for myself in the professional world came from stepping out of my comfort zones, pursuing service, education, and a rewarding job. That’s something anyone can achieve. But at the end of the day, it’s not about a paycheck, it’s about your principles that determine personal success.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Cynthia Oswald is pictured (2nd from the right) with President Long (3rd from right) with Ghanian employees at the Ministry of Employment and Labor