Cedar Bayou Jr. High (Baytown, TX)
Ross S. Sterling High School (Baytown, TX)
The University of Texas at Austin (B.S., Physics)
The John Marshall Law School (J.D.)
Mrs. Tobye Madison (Cedar Bayou Jr. High)
Mrs. Donna Britt (Fagala) (Cedar Bayou Jr. High)
Mrs. Lyn Houk (Ross S. Sterling High School)
1990, Individual Performance
1991, Group Performance
1992, Group Performance
1993, Group Performance
The second year we participated in the group performance category, we had a particularly difficult call-back judge. He asked all of the most difficult questions and was relentless with us during the interview period. We were, quite frankly, certain we were not going to place that year at State. However, not only did we place, but we advanced to the National Contest. Through our experience at the National Contest, we realized that that particular judge was not being harsh for the sake of being difficult. Rather, the intention of his persistent questioning was to focus us on the specific aspects of our project that we had been neglecting, and those aspects ended up being the focus of the judges at Nationals. My takeaway from this is that you cannot discount advice or constructive criticism just because it was not delivered in a palatable manner. Also, you cannot be so tunnel-visioned in your research that you are unwilling to consider critical comments. I have applied this lesson throughout my career as a lawyer in developing trial strategies and drafting arguments for briefs. Although you have decided on a path, you cannot be unwilling to listen to, and explore, additional or alternative paths.
Additionally, as I look back on my entire National History Day experience, I am really struck by how much it taught me about tenacity and perseverance. You live with your project for a long time. Many of the projects on which I worked were year-long projects. I learned so much about what it meant to thoroughly research an issue and not just scrape the surface. I also learned how to really chase down a lead and find the one fact that would completely alter the project. I learned to deal with situations where what we thought we would find in the facts just was not there. These are skills that I carried with me through my education and apply now in my career.
NHD taught me research skills, time management, and how to work in a group. But there were several “less academic” skills I learned as well. These were what I now call the character building skills. I learned how to compete and push myself to the next level, to rise to the competition. I also learned how to take hard criticism and find the constructive elements of the criticism to improve my work.
4th Place Texas State History Day 1990 (Jr. High Individual Performance, 6th Grade)
Qualified for Texas State History Day 1991 (Jr. High Group Performance, 7th Grade)
2nd Place Texas State History Day 1992 (Jr. High Group Performance, 8th Grade)
Called Back at National History Day 1992 (Jr. High Group Performance, 8th Grade)
Called Back at Texas State History Day (Sr. High Group Performance, 9th Grade)
After my time participating in NHD, I went on to attend The University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Physics. After undergrad, I attended the John Marshall Law School and graduated in 2004. I am now a licensed patent attorney and a partner at the firm Hahn, Loeser & Parks LLP. I spend time lecturing and writing on various topics related to the area of intellectual property and hold leadership positions in a number of national and international organizations. Additionally, I am the President of the Texas Exes (The University of Texas Alumni Association) – Chicago Chapter and am on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Metro History Education Center.
I remember my NHD experiences fondly. The lessons and skills I learned through these experiences are too numerous to recount here, but I definitely attribute many of my successes to what I learned in NHD. In the past, I have been privileged to have the opportunity to work with students participating in NHD through judging competitions and also to coach students working on performances. Throughout all of these interactions, I have yet to meet a student who regretted the time and effort put into their projects.