Sarah Ham Reflects on Her Experience as a Third Generation UMO Student

Three Generations of Hams Call UMO Their Alma Mater

MOUNT OLIVE- The University of Mount Olive (UMO) is known for its liberal arts tradition, its ties to the Original Free Will Baptist church, and its family atmosphere. University of Mount Olive Sophomore Sarah Ham of Cary appreciates these connections and understands them well, as she represents the twelfth member of her family and the third generation to attend UMO.

Ham indicated that from 1960 to 2009 the members of her family who have attended UMO include her great aunt, two uncles, three aunts, three cousins, her grandfather, and her mother.  For Ham, it is amazing to think that so many of her family members have studied in Henderson Hall, have walked the tree-lined path to Murphy Center, and have attended services in Rodgers Chapel.

“UMO just feels like an extension of home to me,” she said.

Ham’s parents, Craig, who is a Methodist minister, and Marla, who is a music director, knew from their own experiences that their daughter would find academic and spiritual fulfillment at UMO.  So, they encouraged her to attend as well.

“My faith has always been a big part of my life, so I trusted in the Lord, and He led me to UMO.”

Ham’s faith has been strengthened since she started at UMO in the fall of 2014. “UMO gives me a place to grow in my faith and attend chapel services. I love being surrounded by people who share the same beliefs as me and encourage me in all aspects of life.”

Ham is a business management major. She loves the diversity of courses available and plans to use the knowledge that she has gained in her management, finance, and leadership courses to one-day manage her own music broadcasting station.

“My business classes have taught me a lot about management and finance,” noted Ham. “I also love singing, so I want to merge these two passions in a future career of having my own music station. It would tie in everything I love about business and still allow me to work with music.”

Ham’s love of music led her to become a member of the UMO music ensemble, Free Spirit, which performs a quality mix of contemporary, gospel, southern gospel, and a cappella Christian music throughout the state.

“Singing in Free Spirit has opened my eyes to many things,” revealed Ham. “We are a part of a team that brings worship music to churches, school groups, and community organizations.  It is especially rewarding to see people enjoying our songs. It is reassuring to know that our music is making a positive impact.”

Another memorable experience for Ham occurred last summer when she was able to travel abroad for the first time.  She participated in a UMO sponsored trip to Costa Rica that included zip lining, catamaran riding, and visiting historic sites, picturesque parks, and iconic volcanoes.

“It was definitely one of the best trips I have ever experienced,” said Ham. “I enjoyed being able to learn about a new culture and seeing all of the amazing sites of the area.  The natural beauty made me appreciate all of God’s creations even more.”

When reflecting on her time at UMO, Ham smiled and said, “UMO is a great school and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I am glad that I chose to attend a school that has such deep roots within my family heritage.  At UMO, I am more than just a number, and I love the opportunities to grow personally, academically, and spiritually.”

In the future, Ham hopes to have children who will also choose UMO for their college experience. “I hope to have at least two children! I will definitely share with them my love for UMO and all the wonderful opportunities I experienced here. Hopefully, they will decide to keep the family tradition alive and attend UMO like I did,” smiled Ham.

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit