Hometown: Marietta, Ohio
Year Graduated: 1997
School: School of Communication Studies
Major: Interpersonal Communication
Current job title and location: Magistrate, Washington County Common Pleas Court, Marietta, Ohio; Entrepreneur
What do you do? I handle the domestic docket from case inception to final decision for the Washington County Common Pleas Court as the magistrate. I also manage a family business.
What made you come to Ohio University? My mother had received her bachelor degree, Master’s degree, and Ph.D. at Ohio University as a single mom. So I had spent a lot of time on the OU campus growing up. I knew my way around, my favorite places to eat, et cetera. In my mind, I had been a Bobcat for years. It was also important to me that I received the best education possible at a reasonable cost as I knew I would be incurring further expenses pursuing a graduate degree. Ohio University made this possible for me. I also knew I wanted to live and raise a family back home in the Marietta area. So, making connections and networking in Southeast Ohio was also important.
Were there other places you considered? For a moment early my senior year of high school, I considered Spelman in Georgia and Marietta College. However, my roots are here so I decided Georgia was just too far away and Marietta was just not quite far enough away. The cost of the other institutions was not conducive to meeting my long-term goals.
How did the Scripps College of Communication equip you with the skills you needed to succeed? My communication degree prepared me to solve problems. I learned to identify stakeholders, communicate in a manner to reach identified goals, negotiate and persuade buy-in from the stakeholders, and roll out an identified plan in a manner to ensure success. These are also the skills of a good lawyer who resolves cases and solves problems. As a lawyer and a magistrate, the tools of my trade are a good pen, a broad vocabulary, and the ability to effectively communicate. The college prepared me for not only the rigors of law school but, the skills to open my own highly successful law office upon graduating and then to ultimately be a successful magistrate for the court.
What about your experience here was so memorable? OHIO allowed me a safe space to figure out who I was as an adult. I didn't feel like just a number; professors knew my name. They were willing to challenge me, train me to think through a problem, and not allow me to make excuses for failing to meet my potential. OHIO allowed me to meet people from all over the world in an intimate, small-town setting where our cultural differences were eclipsed by our common experience as college students. My time at Ohio University was filled with a lot of laughs, a few tears, and a whole lot of growing up. It has warmed my heart just taking this stroll down memory lane.
Tell us about your career path. After graduating from OHIO, I began law school at Capital University a week later. I had completed my bachelor’s degree three years out of high school, and my family really pushed for me to immediately begin law school because of my young age. I finished my first semester of law school, but by that time had already accepted a corporate position in Nashville, Tenn. Many of my OHIO friends had taken positions there, and I left graduate school to "go be an adult." I do not regret the experience and grew so much from it. I found myself successful in the corporate realm but really wanted to go home to Appalachia after about two and a half years. I realized to do so, have a career with upward mobility and the economic benefits, I desired a professional degree would be my best bet. I reapplied to law school, was accepted and began the night program, working full-time in human resources during the day.
After graduation there were no opportunities to go to work for a firm or in government work in the Marietta area, so I hung my shingle and got to business. Within 18 months, I had established a very lucrative and successful law practice.
After nine years in practice, the position of magistrate came open with the Washington County Common Pleas Court. Many of my colleagues encouraged me to apply, and the work/life balance the opportunity promised was very appealing, as I had a young child by this point in my life. Seven years and five judges later, I am still here. I really enjoy the time I am afforded to research and write as magistrate. Helping community members solve their problems is what motivates me.
What were some of the reasons you decided to stay local for your career? Living in the big city made me truly appreciate the tree-lined brick streets of my hometown. I love that folks in Washington County wave at you as you go by and call you by your name. I live on my family's 500-acre farm, away from the hustle and bustle of town. I am able to walk outside, throw a fishing pole in the pond and relax any given evening if I so desire. I see my family all the time and am able to help out my grandmother as she gets older. This life is not one that would be afforded to me in a big city.
How would you advise students in choosing where they should ultimately live and work? I do not believe it is possible to be successful and the best you, you can be, if you are not happy. If at all possible, pick a career that you're obsessed about, one that you read about not because you have to but because you want. Pick a career that has subject matter you find fascinating—the kind of stuff that makes you start planning out long-term ways you can effectuate a change in the industry or area of scholarship because you are motivated to do so simply by exposure to the ideas. There is money to be made in almost any industry, and a passion for the work is more likely to result in the economic benefits that will permit you to pay your way through life.
I believe folks should go out in the world and experience different places and cultures. A very wise OHIO professor once told me on a trip out of the country to “lay back and waller in the culture,” one of the best morsels of advice I’ve received in life. I did just that in my early and mid-20s and believe I am a better person and professional for it. Ultimately though, I chose to settle down and live where people knew and cared about me. That might not be right for everyone, but, for me, it was the perfect fit.