FTG 0027 – Overcoming Adversity with Attorney & Former Student Athlete Chris Wilson ‘06



Christopher Wilson ’06 Liberal Arts is a Senior Associate in the Washington, DC office of the international law firm Baker Botts. His practice there focuses on civil antitrust and other complex commercial litigation. He earned his BA in Political Science with Honors from Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts and went on to earn his JD from Stanford in 2012. He played running back and full back for the Nittany Lions in his first and second years as a Scholar. This episode will be helpful to any Scholar who is facing obstacles, and particularly student athletes, as Chris talks about his experience of nearly dropping out before leveraging relationships to stay and succeed. You can read Chris’ bio and a more detailed breakdown of episode topics below.

Guest Bio:

Christopher Wilson is a Senior Associate in the Washington, DC office of the international law firm Baker Botts. His practice there focuses on civil antitrust and other complex commercial litigation; he represents Fortune 500 companies and other major corporations in litigation throughout the country. Before joining Baker Botts in 2018, Chris was a litigation associate at the international law firm of Winston & Strawn in Chicago, IL. He earned a BA in Political Science with Honors from Penn State in 2006, where he also played running back and fullback for the Nittany Lions, and earned a law degree from Stanford Law School in 2012. In his spare time, Chris enjoys reading science fiction and noir detective novels, as well as finding new and exciting things to do and see in the city. He is happy to talk about things as esoteric as antitrust law and as enjoyable as the best hotels and restaurants in cities around the world! Please feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopher-wilson-a4653748

Episode Specifics:

In this episode, Chris shares his insights on:

· Choosing Penn State and the Schreyer Honors College over top alternative options on and off the field

· Selecting liberal arts majors for their versatility and desired practical skill sets

· Planning your thesis and determining the skills you need to develop to complete it, like data analysis

· The importance of getting to know your faculty, honors advisor, and thesis advisor

· Dealing with adversity and making tough choices around prioritization to learn resilience as a response to setbacks and burnout

· Considering dropping out of the Honors College and engaging with staff to find ways to stay a Scholar

· Transitioning away from the regimentation of student athlete life

· Continuing research in industry rather than graduate programs

· Deciding to go to law school after working full time

· Advice on approaching law school motivation, relationships, and opportunities

· Paying it forward as an alumni donor to provide resources to current Scholars

· Learning the values of resilience and humility

· The power of relationships

· Enjoying University Park & State College – or your Commonwealth Campus & local town – while you’re in college


Schreyer Honors College Links:






Upcoming Events

• Scholars – Need Assistance? Book an Appointment!

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Make a Gift to Benefit Schreyer Scholars

• Join the Penn State Alumni Association


Credits & Notes:

This content is available in text form here.

This show is hosted, produced, and edited by Sean Goheen ‘11 Lib (Schreyer).

The artwork was created by Tom Harrington, the College’s Web Developer.

The sound effect is “Chinese Gong,” accessed via SoundBible used under Creative Commons License.

The theme music is “Conquest” by Geovane Bruno, accessed via Pixabay and used under Creative Commons License.

Greeting scholars and welcome to following the Gong, a podcast of the Shire Honors College at Penn State. Following the gone takes you inside conversations with our scholar alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice. And it spanned your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how scholar alumni have gone on to shape the world after they ran the gone and graduated with honors, and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is probably sponsored by the scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Shawan Jheen, class of two thousand eleven and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back. Christopher Wilson, class of two thousand and six, is a senior associate in the wash Shington D C Office of the international law firm Baker bots. His practice there focuses on civil, anti trust and other complex commercial litigation. Here in his BA in political science with honors from Penn State's College of the Globeral Arts and went on to earn his J D from Stanford. In Two thousand twelve. He played running back and fullback for the nitney lions in his first and second years as a scholar. This episode will be helpful to any scholar who is facing obstacles, and particularly student athletes, as Chris Talks about his experience of nearly dropping out before laveraging relationships to stay and succeed. You can reade Chris is full bio and a more detailed breakdown of episode topics in the show notes on your podcast APP. With that, let's get into our conversation with Chris following the Gong. Chris, thank you so much for joining me here on following the gone. I'm really excited to talk to you dive into your story. I think it's a really fascinating one. Really excited for our scholars to hear it, and I think a great place to start that is, how did you first come to attend Penn State and the Honors College? I know there were other options that were recruiting you that were also great institutions, but why us? What drew you ultimately to Penn State and the Honors College? Well, thanks Shohan. Uh, thank you for having me on. I'm happy to be here. So, as far as Penn State, so I was, Um, a pretty highly recruited football player coming out of high school. Penn state was one of the schools that was very actively recruiting, uh, recruiting me, but I was also being recruited by, Um, you know, a few dozen other schools and chief among them was, at least from my perspective, chief among them were the schools that could be conceded, like we're generally considered the you know, the top schools, at least that were played there, that had division one football, but also we're excellent academic programs. So Stanford and Duke were among them. Uh, UV A and Michigan were among them. The Ivy Leagues are among them too, but I was Um concerned about you can't give athletes full scholarships there. So my family couldn't afford school and we're leary about loans. So, Um, Ivy Leagues were axed out of convenience. But Stanford was still there, Duke was still there, you know, the Public Ivys were still there and Um, I was as I was going back and forth, you know, I'll go up to de Penn State. I went up to Penn state more than any other school and uh just fell in love with the campus, fell in love with the atmosphere of the of the overall university. Um Of course, fell in love with the program. It's a great athletic program Uh at Penn State. Of course, um one of the best historically. So that was a big driver. But I was, you know, candidly, Stanford was in the Lage. Stanford the duke fell out because Duke didn't have quite the football program. But Stanford was in the lead until the recruiting coaches asked me to come up and then invited me to the Honors College. You know, they said they sent me the met trick, saying you know,...

...students from the from the mid Atlantic area, from Pennsylvania, who could otherwise go to these topics in the country often will come to to Shreyer. They will come to Penn state because of Shreyer. So that competition is there, that level of academic excellence is there and we think you should try it out or at least give it a shot. So I came up and Um, I spoke with the WHO was then the dean, Cheryl Ockterberg of the honors college and had a really fantastic conversation with her and a fantastic conversation with a few other honors college staff. Um, I think at that point I spoke with a couple of professors as well, and I came away just really satisfied that I wasn't giving up anything by going to Penn State rather than, you know, picking the quote, the stanfords of the world, and that really the honest college is really will put me put it the school over the top, Um, just that comfort that I was going to get the excellent education, uh, that I could pair with at least the aspirations of a football career. So you wanted to play football, but I have to take a step back. Where did you play your high school football? I played in Cayton'Sville, Maryland. So it's a small public school just outside of the city of Baltimore. Not a highly not a very big UH school for for sports in general and football, but I stood out, Um, in part because I was the biggest and fastest person on the field. When you're in high school and those in the with playing against small public schools, you don't really have, uh, people who were who fit that mold, and there were, there were, I guess there was some word of mouth that came out because I was, I guess, the you know, the smart kid who was the respectful football player who was also better than everyone else on the field. So, Um, the word of mouth got out and uh, a little by a little, people started coming to to visit. But yeah, no, it was shout out to Cayton's by Maryland for sending me to Penn State at Lui. So you mentioned that you had football aspirations, but obviously that is a time limited career for those who even do make get to the NFL. And if you want to hear more about that you can go back and listen to our episode with Stephan and Hillary. Was newsty great conversation there. Shameless plug. But, Chris, obviously you had to have some kind of what would I do after football in mind. So what drew you to pick your major when you got to campus? Yeah, so, Um, that was, you know, the balance of academics and athletics was really the sort of main driver from my picking schools in the first place, so that it was understood that, you know, football might or might not work out. But I wanted to be able to, you know, have some good academic foundation for, you know, for whatever happens next. But Um, as far as picking my major, it was more, you know, where where my strengths were and where my preferences were as far as credits were concerned. I double majored in policy in English, but I could only pick it up. I could only I didn't want to write two thess. So I had to pick UH PENCE OR I had to pick policy as my actual, uh my actual major for for honors purposes. But I went that route because as I really like the practice that's available in both of those majors of really exploring intellectual, you know, and substantive ideas. So, Um, in English you could sit there and, you know, learn about the history of of famous scholars right to the best of your ability. Learned to hone those skills, those persuasive writing skills. Policy was just a real interest to me. I was the inner workings of this of the United States government and how it interacts with the states has always piqued my interest and I could also build those analytical skills through that, through that major as well, and at Penn State Policy for honors purposes as a quantitative Major. So, Um, my thesis had to be uh, grounded in statistics. So I was able to get that skill set as well. So, speaking of that thesis, can you tell us what that experience was like and what advice you have for students as they work on completing it, whether it's in a quantitative field like political science, or really anything? My thesis experience was was an interesting one because,...

Um, you know there's that it's essentially a three year process, Um, to choose your to choose your thesis, you got to go through pick, to get the required courses in your major and then select your thesis advisor, Select Your I mean you're going to get an honest advisor, but you know, identify your thesis advisor and start that process as early as possible of sort of working on the ideas, if it's quantitative, identifying the data set, figuring out the developing your skill set so that's you uh could actually work within the data. So as a part of that, I mean I what really really helped me was the fact that I developed a relationship with both my honors advisor and my thesis Advisor. So these were these are Michael Berkman. Um It was my honors advisor and Um Major Coleman, who was in the African American Studies Department Um at the time. I think now he moved up to Sunny State University of New York over the over the years. I actually met both of them, I think before I like as a part of the recruiting experience for football. The coaches at ten state were very thorough in terms of making sure that I was comfortable with the academic environment of Penn State. As a part of that day introduced me to a number of professors. In any event, I, you know, took the time to go to those professors offices to sit with them. There was a point, um end of myself, when you're going into my junior year, where football started not to not to work out at all for me and Um just because of a series of injuries and my grade starting to fall in the and you know, that got to the point where it's, you know, sort of threatening my, uh my ability to maintain the G P A for the Honors College. That was when I started going to these professors and started going into the honess college too. But I went to those two professors and they were able to support me as I was going through that process. So those I mean in terms of so that's going back to your question about what the thesis experience was like. It starts with your relationships with with the honors advisor and their thesis advisor, I think because, especially as I started getting into the the data like the process of actually writing my thesis, I would spend weekends with Professor Coleman in his office just crunching numbers. Then we'd go out and grab tea. And when my thesis, when I submitted my thesis, Professor Berkman took us out for took us off for beer, as all of his honors advises. I still talked to I just I was emailing professor Berkman earlier this year actually, or late last year. I think those relationships both helped calm you as you're going through the thesis process and they provide guidance and mentorship to make sure that you're going down a correct path. Um like, for instance, with my thesis, I initially started with the data set that I thought was going to hit the issues that I needed. So my thesis was about essentially generational change in political affiliation among African American communities and its effects on voting habits across generations. I initially started with the data set and Dr Coleman for about six months pushed back on me, said I don't think this is the right one, I don't think that's the right one, and I kept saying I think I can do it, I think I can do it, and eventually, Um, you know, he prevailed upon me just because, you know, he and I had long conversations about what I was trying to do with the data, what sort of analysis I was trying to implement, and that guidance, you know, actually it clarified and help structure my ultimate thesis. So I can't, I can't overstate the value of the relationships that you can build with your with your honors advisor and your thesis Advisor. These are in a campus with fifty students in it. This is your these are your opportunities to really develop these close personal relationships with with professors who are leaders in their field and who actually care about you. They have a vested interest in ensuring that you complete your thesis. For me, especially going into my senior year, as an open question whether or not I was gonna be able to do it, but Major Coleman and uh Michael Berkman really help guide that process. For me that's the that if there's one take away I can I can I can offer, its build those relationships and value them. I think that is a really solid point. I also like that you mentioned about starting early. You don't really want to do too much in your first year, but by the time you hate your second year it's good to start thinking about those topics. I know kind of to your point with what you're saying about hey, this isn't right data set, this isn't the right data set. Harken me back...

...to also in the same department, I pitched an idea for a thesis to a different faculty member and she was like, this is a really cool idea, but the data doesn't exist, so you need to come up with something different because you're not gonna be able to do what you want to do. And I think that's really great that they're that honest with you and saying, Hey, this is how you can succeed and but it hates. It's coming on you as the scholar to really help start building those relationships. So I think that's really great. Advice, Chris. Yeah, no, and it's not. It's you know, it's not necessarily all about, you know, towards the thesis. You know the again, these your honest advising, your thesis advisor, are there to help guide you, Um, to make sure that you graduate with honors. But they are genuinely vested in they have a vested interests in your success, building their relationships just as humans. Um Not, as you know, what they can do for you in terms of graduating with with your honors, with as a srier honor scholar, but just building their relationships overall can help grow you as a person would also enhance your student life. So I'll give an example where I keep jumping back and forth here, but to summarize a key point in my career at Penn State. When I first got to Penn State, I got hurt. I rupshirted, rupstired one disc and here and needed two others in my back. Had to get back surgery and then over the course of my first two years playing football, just had this procession of injuries. Over the course of that process, you know, my grade started to fall and I needed to make a choice. Essentially, was I going to try to push through and maximize my athletic career. was in the process potentially drop out of the Honors College, you know, make drastic academic choices, or am I going to just, you know, knuckle down and focus on making sure that I graduate as best as I could? And I chose the ladder option. So I had to leave the football team and I went to speak to Dr Berkman soon after I stopped playing football and, you know, he was thinking about he was proactively thinking about the things that I could do to sort of help prepare me for drafting my thesis Um to help build my resume, and he identified a program at Duke. It was like it's basically a pre Ph d program for diver like policy students. It's like an intensive six week course where you learn database analysis, statistical analysis, statistical approaches, and I hadn't heard of it. He said, Chris, I think this is a good, good idea for you. I will write your recommendation. I will, you know, call the people I know down there and make sure that you at least have a shot to get him, and that sort of that didn't come out of you know, him necessarily, just, you know, wanting to make sure that I graduate with honors. He actually cared, but that was, you know, that was before my senior year, so it was the process that started my junior year. So, Um, that whole process of thinking about what you need to do, working with it. It doesn't that you don't have to be intensive about it when you're, you know, in your sophomore junior year, but be thinking about it, being thinking about what you need to do in order to structure your ability to write your thesis and just be speaking with your with your advisors. It's a helpful process. It's going to be a deliberate process, but it's a helpful one in the long run. So, Chris, I want to thank you for talking about your your story there and I want to dive a little bit deeper. So a lot of our scholars are involved in a lot, sometimes many, you know, too many, things that they get involved in. You know, we've had previous episodes where we've talked about fault who have done research, they've been on the thought executive committee, they're involved in homecoming, they do internships, all these things, and we do value that as a college. But there is a point where you start getting diminishing returns on being involved and you faced a hard choice. Can you walk us through what your mindset was and how scholars who maybe are trying to choose between different things, they get to a point where they're thinking, I can't do all of these things and I need to pick what my priorities are. You know what are? What are some things you've considered, some criteria, and how you walk through that decision and ultimately, obviously, you graduated honors. You're here on following the gone. You wouldn't be otherwise. So you you overcame that challenge. What advice would you give to students who are trying to balance that and realize that they maybe took on too much? Yeah, yeah, no, it's it's a physical response that you get once you I I can totally empathize with with those scholars who thinks that it's the only way you can have it is if to have is if you have everything...

...all at once. You know, your come out of high school being told that you're, you know, the top of the class, you're Scott, the guy's the limit as far as your future is concerned, and you want to make sure that you have as many options available to you. So you try to do as much as you can as often as you can. and well, that's a you know, it's alloudable goal. H as you said, Sean, it does have diminishing returns over time and for me the crux of the matter was when injury started compounding in football. So that sort of limited my ability to to really contribute as much as I was, you know, committed to trying to be the best that I could be on the football team. I was, you know, I was literally Hamstrung Bye bye, bye injuries and by, you know, the fact that, you know, it's a very, very competitive team. Uh. You know, these were excellent. A lot of a lot of my teammates went onto the pros um a lot of ones that didn't are excellent, excellent football players. In addition to fighting my own body, I was fighting, you know, for not for a roster spot, but for, you know, playing time with these plays, with these, with these uh, with my teammate. If I was fully healthy, you know, would be a coin to ass as to whether or not, you know, I'd have some success in the field. And then you married that with the facts that I was my grades were just just in a precipitous decline my sophomore year just because I was so distracted from what was the real priority, which is making sure that I, you know, got the best education I could. Did as well as I could in classic if I could give any advice to the current and future scholars, it would be that you have to prioritize and the I'm a lawyer now and in law we call it triaging. You can have ten things to do, but there are three things that absolutely positively have to get done and then everything else you can prioritize. As a at a secondary tertiary level, you know, it's a matter of making those choices. You know, for me it was I could not let my grades drop. I could not drop I could not fall out of the Honors College. There was no net for me. I didn't have, like I said, parents can't afford college. I was going to drop out. I actually did drop out. That's so that's a funny story. Um, I can I can follow up with with that after this, after I complete this answer. But ultimately I made that choice that my academic standing was more important than these extra things that I that I that were very, very important to me in my life, but that ultimately, if I lost these. If I lost this academic standing, my life would be dramatically different. I knew it at the time and I knew that it was that I was going to have consequences in the future. So I made that made that choice, and that's what I would recommend to current in future scholars. Is If you're getting dragged down, if you're getting mentally distracted, if you're getting physically exhausted by everything that you have to do, it's okay to say, okay, I have to focus on this, therefore I cannot do this. It's okay to do that, and it's okay not. You're going to have the rest of your life to stress yourself out and given the given the sort of ambitions that we have, you were certainly going to put yourself in the position of resting yourself out. But as it stands in college, you need to focus on what's truly, truly important and those things that you can do, by all means do but if it gets too if it gets to the overburdening, that triage, that triaz exercise is going to be important. So, before we get to your story about or maybe this is tied to it. So take this next question as you will hear, Chris. You know a lot of our students. They may pursue opportunities on campus in different leadership roles and there's an internship that they really want and they may not get it. Obviously football was probably a huge part of your identity and then you had to give that up. So how did you adjust to life as a scholar post football? Yeah, yeah, okay, so, yeah, that does tie you into the dropping out, or so it was. I thought I dropped out basically. So end of the right before junior year started, I went to talk to coach Paterno. I told him that, try as I might, injuries were too much, my grades were falling and I greatly appreciate the opportunity. I sat down in his office and I can't thank you enough for the opportunity, but I have to make a choice, and this is choice that I made is for to make sure that I can at...

...least pursue focus on academics. Then I went to the honor's college and I talked to the staff there and said, Hey, I appreciate the opportunity, but I'm no longer playing football. So I presume this means that I will not be able to to stay at Penn state anymore. Candidly I was. I was planning to go back to Baltimore, start working in a box factory, save up money and then try to apply to University of Maryland. I actually went back home um and I was laying in bed and I get a call from the football team, from somebody on the football team who said Hey, where are you, and I said I don't Um. I talked to Joe. I'm not I'm no longer on the team and he said basically what had happened was after I spoke with coach Paterno and spoke with Dean Octterberg and other staff at at the Honors College, Dean Octterberg and coach Paterno actually had a meeting and reached an agreement that would allow me to stay in school. So how it worked was coach Paterno would keep me on football scholarship for my junior year and then Dean Octoburg would find a scholarship for me for my senior year so that I was going I was going to be able to stay in school. That, uh, was a tremendous act on both of their parts and I to this day I h am endless. The grate foot to both of them, but that's, you know, that's it feeds into how my transition worked away from away from football, because, you know, it was there was an adjustment. It was a very, very significant adjustment, because your day is scheduled. Your Day is from the minutes you wake up until, you know, nine ten o'clock at night. Your Day is scheduled when you're playing football and it's probably the same when you're, you know, on most of the athletic teams at Penn State. Losing that structure is it took some time to adjust to because all of a sudden, you know, it's six am and I don't have to be in the be in a training room, or it's five pm and I don't have to go to video or it's seven pm and I'm not in study hall. The process was was was a long one and it took some time because Penn state is not a Um. If you want to be distracted to Penn State, it's very easy to be distracted to Penn State. So knowing that the reason that I had to lead the football team in the first place is because I was too distracted sort of helped give me a little bit of discipline in terms of, uh, you know, what was happening next. So it was a lot of exploring penn state, what it had to offer, but also a lot of just closing out the distractions, closing out the noise. I have work to do, I have to do this work. You Pick The Times, you pick the times when you can engage and when you have to, you know, just buckle down and get the work done. But at the same time, I would I would caution the scholars against getting so deep into, you know, the work they have to do, the organized activities that they have to do, that they missed the opportunity to really enjoy what Penn State is. Penn state is a community. It's got a lot to offer just outside of the classroom. I don't think I would have appreciated Penn state as much as I do if I didn't have that opportunity to really engage with the with the campus, just, you know, meet the meet regular students, go to the bars. So there wasn't an a somewhat arduous but um, ultimately enjoyable process of sort of adjusting. But again, you keep your priorities straight Um, no matter what happens to the work. If you have to district cut out the distraction or to get the work done, you get the work done. I think that's impressive that. You know you only have so many scholarships on each of the different athletic teams, so that's impressive that one was leveraged on somebody who wasn't able to play anymore. So Uh. And if you're a scholar, and you're probably thinking, wait, Dean actor Berg is an Ardine Dean mother that you know. We get these emails every week the student news letter, and if you don't read it you should, and he writes a nice little note to you all in the top of it. And you're like, wait, what, I'm confused. So Dean actward was the first Dean of the Honors College, so she helped get things up off the ground after the gift from the shryer families. A little history lesson for you. As you know, to liberal arts strads sitting here talking, we've talked a lot about your time here on campus and happy valley, but eventually you left, you graduated. Tell us about your first role out of college because it is a little bit different than what you're doing now. So how did you decide...

...on what was the next next step. Right, yeah, so, Um, so, yeah, I got my I got my thesis in on time, I graduated with honors, I got my medal, my my honors medal. When I was graduating my senior year, I was speaking with my honors Advisor and my thesis advisor about just continuing in this process. You know, I've already started to dig into, you know, quantitative analysis, statistical analyzes for uh, in this political science space. I should just go ahead and go through and get a PhD in political science. And that was my initial like, that was the initial long, long term plan. But then I decided, you know, I don't necessarily want to stay on the campus for, you know, the next five years. I want to take some time out, but I don't want to go fully off track of this PhD process. So I started looking for, Um, basically jobs and research firms. Those those liberal arts honors Majors, I'm sure they'll know Brookings Institution and Rand Corporation and all those things. There are companies around the mostly in the DC area, but around the country really, that do these statistical analyzes, that, you know, uh the survey research with uh, you know, a political bend or a sociological bend. So I ended up finding one of those. One of those research firms is called West at. Western statistics is what it's called, is based in just outside D C, where I could essentially continue in the vein of, you know, doing research, doing hearts, quantitative analyses. This was a survey of research firm essentially. So it primarily worked, at least in the segment that I was working in, the division I was working in, it was evaluating federal programs. It would craft surveys, implement surveys, analyze the surveys, right reports, essentially evaluating and assessing various funding programs from the Department of Education, Bureau of Department of Justice, few other departments, federal agencies. That was hardcore work. I mean it's it's it's going into going into schools, implementing surveys, going into prisons, juvenile justice facilities, speaking with students, implementing surveys. We write the surveys, then we implement them, then we do the back end statistical analyses of them, then we write the report. So it was I thought it was very similar to what and a lot of the people that I worked with at West that were PhDs and political science or PhDs and Statistics. So Um, it seemed like a appropriate sort of in line with academia. I could maintain the sort of the skill set but take some time out of take some time off campus, get to explore the world a little bit. That was, you know, it was a very good experience. I've got my first taste of academic writing. Is One thing. Writing for reports that are gonna be submitted to Department of Justice or Department or submitted to Congress. That's another thing. They don't like flowery language. They like straight to the point. Here's the deal. So the idea, the practice of sort of sifting out the flowery. Here's ten pages when it could have been six. Process it started there. That was a it was an enlightening experience and it was good. Ultimately, I decided that, you know, the PhD or out isn't wasn't one for me. Just a choice. I think it's just a choice of of future career paths. Academia is it's a competitive space. It's a very, very competitive space, especially for PhDs trying to get professor ships at the time. You know, it's three years and a two and a half years and at West end making the choice between PhD programs or something else and I, you know, after thinking about a little move further, I just had on something else and that process was very from there it was actually very straightforward. I spent three years Um doing deep research and writing law school. I'm going to go law school. That's just research and writing. That's research and writing too. Okay. So, so that's how I ended up in law school and trying to go in full circle, you ended up at Stanford. I did end up at Stanford. I actually wrote in my u my essays, you know, talking about my undergrad experience, talking about how I was being recruited for football. I specifically mentioned that I was, that I got a schollarge so from Stanford in my essay. I don't know if anybody read it or cared about it, but it's it was. It was a verifiable...

...fact. Have they cared to go back into the football records? So what was your law school experience like, especially you had some opportunities out, like you just described. You were out in the working world for a few years. You had the research background. How did you translate that into your law experience? And a key part of law school as well. I'd love you to talk about is what you do in the summer, those practical experiences and how you leverage those opportunities to set yourself up for success. Law School is a little bit of a different it takes an adjustment from a space like West that into law school, because again, I spent three years at West that sort of learning how to adjust my writing to the mode of here's what you're asked, here's what you asked, here's what we did, here's the answer. And Law School at least you know, especially that first year of law school. The basically the style of of law school is essentially exploration, right. So those scholars who are thinking about law school are going to hear about the socratic method where professors perform purport to teach the class by essentially asking questions and getting getting the students allowed asking questions to allow the students to reach the conclusion themselves. And that sort of process extends into exams for for law school as well. So where you're gonna you have to accube. There's a heavy amount of but this here's the question. It could be this for these reasons or it could be this for these reasons. It's essentially the process of getting to maybe, maybe, yes, maybe no, but here's what we recommend sort of thing. And Uh, that was an adjustment because again, I spent the last the previous three years saying there's a yes or no answer, and in law school it's not necessarily that. It's understanding why it could by s or why it could be. Now, the academics were an adjustment, but the actual process of law school to the the practical experiences or what I appreciated the most. There the summer experiences where you can get an internship and then, at most law schools they're also going to be what are called clinics, legal clinics where you can actually get practice, coal experience, Um, in a courtroom, dealing with contracts, dealing with clients that would be otherwise difficult to get in your regular legal coursework. So, Um, I took advantage of the clinics as much as possible. You could take you could take up to at the time when I was there, you could take up to two clinics Um and then you could take an advanced version of one of the clinics that you've done previously. So I did all of that after after my first year of law school I interned in a school district, the legal the legal council's Office for San Diego Unified School district, just because I was doing a lot of education work um at Westad and it seemed like a, you know, an interesting area to explore as a lawyer, Um, just seeing the the legal side of public education. But a lot of the practical experience was in dealing with my classmates. There are a lot of students in law school who choose, you know, the again, the and I imagine a lot of scholars are gonna would be of this mind as well. There are these gold stars. I need to get, you know, I need to get, uh, get on the Law Journal, I need to publish something, I need to, you know, become a research assistant for my uh, for a professor, so that I could get a clerkship for a judge when I graduate from law school. And that's all good. That's all good and well, and I if if you have the ability and interest to do that, I'd recommend doing it. But for those who are a little bit more on the fence about going that route, I would say it's not necessary. That you sort of forced yourself into that bubble if it's not, if it's not something that you think is actually the correct fit for you. So I did a lot of in addition to you know, worked in a law firm my second year, after my second summer, or excuse me, after my second year of law school, I worked in a law firm while I was in law school. I did a lot of I worked. I was in the law school student government, I was the president of the black laws and new just law students association, as a treasurer of the Black Graduate Students Association. I was trying to find ways to really get to know the campus and my classmates and the broader university and just, you know, developing. Again. It's I say this. I said this about Uh uh, you...

...know, your advisors at Penn State, and I'll say it's a it's a continuing skill. That's that's valuable to you. Developing relationships, you know, developing, you know, personal relationships with with people, not just because they can, they can benefit you in the future, but because it will help you grow as a person. You know, being stuck in a in a classroom or a library or a conference room. It couldn't help certain people, but for a lot of people, myself included. Relationships helped just as much. I'm ten years out of law school now and you know, there are people who I met in the medical school and the business school at Stanford who are not only close friends, but they're moving into positions that might actually be valuable to me as a lawyer. It's important, I would say, to sort of value those relationships and build their relationships even while you're in law school. I've had a couple other attorneys on this podcast before and a common theme with law school is that there's a lot of things you can do with the J d. lots of different paths you can go. You can be a general counsel in, say, for profit business or non for profit. You interned in uh, the legal team for a school district. You can be a business owner, you could be a sports agent, lots of different things. What specifically led you to corporate law of all things? And for scholars who may be interested in that path as well, what would help them to know ahead of time to help them be successful? Giving a bit of just practical advice for law school, make sure you have I would recommend that you have a reason to or have a have a plan for when you go to law school. Um, it's not necessarily I want to do this or I want to be this person. It's just make sure. It's not sure like just some Oh, I don't know what else to do with my life, I'm going to go to law school. With me, I had, you know, like I said, I had a solid foundation and the sort of skills that we're going to be useful on the law that I understood where practical benefits to being a lawyer. The research and writing. A lot of my classmates at Stanford came from varied backgrounds and they're doing exactly what you said. They were doing sean and some are, some are. They all in startups, some of them are working in, you know, far flown locations around the world, some of them are investment bankers, you know, so so, Um, it's uh, it's not necessarily a given that you go to law school to become a corporate lawyer, but for a lot of these, especially the sort of higher ranked law schools, it's sort of like a it's a given path to go to. These firms are eager to to have highly intelligent, highly skilled, eager lawyers coming from these sorts of the opperational on law schools. For me, corporate logists, it seemed like a like a good career path to sort of continue again where my skill set, where my skill said was and how I do Anti Trust Litigation, which is really a continuation of research and writing and it has an economics bend and Statistics and Economics. Statistics and economics are too entirely separate um academic fields, but it still does lend some familiarity to the analyzes that are required in the type of law that I do. So it seemed like Um for me. It seemed like corporate law was an appropriate fit for what I've been doing. And you know what my skill said? What my skill said was if I was, you know, talking to a to a current or future scholar who's thinking about law school, I would say some people go to law school because they don't know what else to do. Some people go to law school because it helps to clarify their goals in life. Make sure you know that you have a reason to go and don't be beholden to any particular path. Like don't say, Oh, I'm going to be a public interest lawyer. A lot of people say that going into law school and they end up being corporate lawyers. Don't have u be open to the possibilities of of what law school presents to you, especially if you go to a school like Stanford or you go to a school that otherwise allows you to engage with business students and uh engineers and you know, the other aspects of graduate of graduate life on the campus that you're at. Don't be afraid of opportunity, because you know there's a lot of it out there. There are a lot of smart people who are doing very interesting things and if you happen to build that relationship that leads you into something...

...new and exciting, then you know you'll be all the better for it. So, Chris, you are a donor to the college. So, first of all, thank you for supporting our scholars. I want to ask what inspired you to do that. There's nothing that made you do that. That's not any kind of requirement, certainly not for one, for being on this show. I've had plenty of folks who are not donors. I've had some who are, some who aren't, but what inspired you to give back and support current in future scholars the way that you're doing? Yeah, so going back to that sort of pivotal after I left, stopped playing football and when I thought that I was not going to have any funding it, was going to go work at a box factory, uh, and then got the surprise that I was actually still at Penn State. I went to to thank then Dean, Cheryl Ockerberg, and we had a nice conversation where she pointed out she she said to me. So coach paternal stepped in and said, you know, I was gonna you know, he would cover the scholarship for for this upcoming year, but then she said, even if he hadn't, we would have found away. And you know, she mentioned that there are scholarships that are available for just those students who there's a last minute, very important need, like these highly, highly extenuating circumstances where it's just this student has no other option and needs this money. Heard discussing that, just saying that, you know, basically the honors college prepares for these sorts of situations where, you know, when all else fails, we want to keep the student here. Let's do what we need to do in order to keep him here. That resonated with me. That's that still sticks with me. You know, as I started to settle in my career as a lawyer and, you know, over time started to save up a little money and get a little settled mixture, like reasonably confident that they're not going to be summarily fired ten years and I you know that sort of thought of you know, those kids who have who really have limited options and you know, worst kids like the bottom could fall out there operating without a net to begin with. What can we, what can I do in order to, you know, try to fill that gap, the way that Dean Octoberg says that other donors to the Honors College try to fill that gap. So is the this is actually the first step like this, this donation that I when I set up. I mean I'm hoping this is the first. This is the first piece of a going relationship with the Honors College, because I was that kid that didn't have any other option and the honest college stepped up. So I would like to be that for somebody in the future and we really appreciate that, Chris, and this podcast originates out of the Development Alumni relations office. So we're a little you know, trying of our job to do these things, obviously, and if you're more and if you want to hear more about still, you know, jobs and philanthropy. Go back and listen to I think it's episode thirteen with Tina Hennessy. It's a great conversation about philanthropy. Really appreciate that. Chris, if you're in a long listening this is certainly something that you can do. Is Well. Also come talk to us. And if you're a scholar who, if you're finding yourself or you have a friend who's also a scholar who's in a position similar to the story that Chris shared, or maybe you know something else that's stenuating, happens with your family or other things where that net falls out from underneath of you or you don't have one to begin with, come talk to us. We care about you. We want to see you succeed. If you're a stryer scholar, we want to get you across that finish line. So come talk to us if you find yourself in that situation like Chris did many not but not too many moons ago, enough moons. Yeah, and I just I'll echo that, Sean. It's it's incredible, both the resources and the dedication of the honor's college. Like they don't. You're not a number. When you get into the honor's college you're a real human person and the staff and the university as a whole and the stryer's Connor's college, they appreciate that. You're not going, you're not alone. Whether it's a financial thing or you know you're struggling one way or another, the honest college has resources. They will do what they can to to try to get you through a tough time. Absolutely, we can't guarantee anything, but we will do whatever we can to help you. So you know, come talk to us if you find yourself in that position. So, Chris, I think you teat up kind of the I'm gonna move to the last third of our conversation here. How do you feel that your experiences as a scholar, as a Nitney lion on the football team, as a policy major, how do you feel that these helped you all on your path,...

...and would you have done anything differently besides maybe getting injured? I think I think that's probably maybe not. Maybe that that was your that was what was meant to be. I'll let you answer that one. I always cautioned against. What would you do differently, because you know of the butterfly effects scenario, right, you know, if I picked this one thing to do differently, how might that have affect? How might that affect everything in my life that that followed it? All things considered, I like where I am right now. There are some a lot of bad and put a lot of good as well. Um, you know, it's it's uh, I think my experiences at Penn state really helped sort of firm up that that mentality. No matter how, what's the best way to say this? UH, hearty mentality. You know, this just this reality that, you know, sometimes life sucks, bad things are going to happen, but there's always going to be a tomorrow and you have to keep looking at that. You have to keep saying, okay, well, this was no good, but you know, I've got other things that are going on, a life that are that are good, and I know that. You know, overall, things are going to get better, especially during that that period when I was I thought I was again, I was done. You know, I thought I was, you know, I was going to have to make a really, really dramatic free structuring of my life. You know, I was actually I was, you know, looking at the positive. You know there well, you know I have to drop off for a little bit, but I can. I can make it and I was undying Ly appreciative. It's just it's just never gonna and I'll be I'll go to my grave thanking Dean octor Berg and coach paternal but having that hearty mentality and just saying, you know, life is gonna be tough sometimes, but you can do it. You know, if anything, I learned that from from my time and been state Chris, what would you say is your biggest success to date? So you know, that's the I don't I don't know that I you know, I can answer that question. I think again, if you look at everything as h if you try to look on the bright side of things, then saying what's your biggest success, you know, my biggest success is, you know, being where I am right now, being where I am today, given all the bad stuff that happened in life and all the all the hurdles that you had to overcome, just being able to say that, Hey, I've got a good career, I'm surrounded by people who respect me, I am in a good position in life all things considered. I'm just happy with that. You gotta have a little humility. Success is a is a relative thing. I'm happy to be here. That is a great approach. And speaking of positions, Chris, one thing I don't think we've actually ever mentioned. We've talked a lot about the football team, but we've never actually mentioned what position you played. So what where did you line up on the field? Oh, yeah, Oh, I recruited as a running back. So my my red shirt freshman year was Larry Johnson's fifth year. His two thousand yard year was my first year on campus. So then I switched to full back. But yeah, I was a running back overall. I was went on the team. So kind of going back to the previous question that I asked. You know biggest success, and you had a great answer there, but what would you say is your biggest transformational learning moment? Well, I think that would actually in law school because, like the I got to to Stanford and you know, I I'm humbled by you know how brilliant I'm like the people. I'm surrounded by. The same thing when I was in the Honors College, you know, you get humbled a little bit by recognizing the intellectual like heaviness that surround you. But in law school it's it took me some time to realize that, you know, I can run the same race in a different way than a lot of these people who were sort of, you know, they want to go for the Gold Stars and be the the ideal law student. I'm like, well, maybe I'm not built for being the ideal law student, but I can succeed in law school and I can build these relationships that I know we're going to help me in a different way, even if I'm not going to be, you know, president of Law Review or the research assistant for the for the top professor, all these things. It's okay, it's okay to to sort of reset your goals on the fly and that in that sort of respect and that ability to that recognition that it's okay, it's to adapt. You'RE NOT gonna get your if you don't get your first goal. Reset the goal, go for that new goal. that it really...

...hit home when I was in when I was in law school, and that's that's really sort of been a guiding approach since then. Great Advice. Speaking of advice, how do you view yourself as both a mentor and mentee? What advice do you have for students as they approach those kinds of relationships. Yeah, again, I mean I I keep banging this horn, but banging this drum, but it's uh, it's an important one, both Ford you know, Mentor, as a mentor and as a mentee. The focus is on their relationship. The focus is on getting to know this person as a person rather than as a you know, as a box to check off because you're a mentor and you have, you signed up for this, or as somebody who knows this. This particularized knowledge, has this particularized knowledge and is therefore valuable to you in the as a as your career. You want to know these people as human beings, and that actually helps deepen their relationship and gives invests, invests both the mentor and the mentee in the relationship and in the future success of of one another. So, oh Um, that's how I approach it. I want to get to know them as people and then I go from there. Speaking of people other than maybe Dr Berkman and Major Coleman, who you talked about, and Dean Actorberg, are there any professors or friends from your scholar days that you wanted to give a shout out to? Well, all of them, so you know, Um, uh, for better or worse, there's been a plus turnover in the football program. But Kirk deal. I keep getting emails from Kirkdale. I hope he's doing well. He's I think he's. UH, he's a staffer now for pence day athletic communications. Wally Richardson, I believe he's still there. Um, he's now there. Yeah, yeah, Wally Richards is. He's the hell of a guy running the academic program for the football team. I hope they're doing well. There's some good people in that program. Are Reckoning. Are Reckoning rightfully occurred within the program, but I'm glad that there are, that there are still some good souls in there. So just final three questions here for you, Chris, as we're wrapping up our time. What's the final piece of advice that you wanted to share but maybe didn't come up organically in our conversation? I mean, one thing I would say for the scholars that are there's I can't overestimate how important it is to to really take the time to try to enjoy yourself while you're in State College. I mean, you're gonna go back, you're gonna look back fifteen years after you graduate. If your experience did not include some of the fun things that you know, you see other Penn states, Penn state alumni talking about and enjoying when they're thirty five years old, enjoying a beer at uh, they come back for a game or they uh, they meet up with alumni and there whatever town that they're living again, you're gonna feel like something's missing. So I know there's a lot of especially for scholars, there's a lot of uh. A lot of people have that urged to to really just buckle down. I don't. I don't care about the parties, I don't care about the football, I don't care about this or that. I just want to get my thesis. I want to do my job. I want to do my work. That's important, but you were in a you're in a special place. It's important that you at least try to engage with that in some respects. You know, try to try to have a little bit of fun. Don't stress yourself out too much, because there's a lot of ways to have fun at Penn State. That's that's important. Open that side up, make some good memory. Absolutely college flies by. So really, really good advice. I recently hit my ten year mark and I was like wow, where did that time go? So I hardly echo that, Chris. If a scholar wanted to reach out to you and take this conversation further, what's the best way that they can get in touch with you? Um, yeah, so linkedin is is very easy. Um, you can just google. You can also Google Christopher Wilson Baker, Bots B A K E R B o t t s. just Google it and I'm going to be I'll come up as the first link. But yeah, no, I'm I'm happy to if you're in D C, I'm happy to meet up for coffee. Uh, you have any want to talk on the phone or discussed by email, I'm happy to be there. Awesome. Thanks for that, Chris. And finally, as this tradition here on the show, if you're a flavor of Birkie creamery ice cream, what would you be? And as a scholar alumnus, most importantly, why would you be that flavor, especially as a lawyer? Chris, explain your rationale. Yeah, well, no, I think I can be pithy with this one. It's the there's a sticky, there's a hot, there's this grilled stick ice cream right there sure is it's yeah, yeah, no,...

I I believe I had that at one point, at one point when I when I first came, when when I last came out to Penn State. I think that, Um, that would fit me pretty well, just because I'm a I consider myself to be a cool take on an old classic. So that's that's how I kind of see myself at least. That is a great, great way to wrap up, Chris. And if you know, if you get sick of being a lawyer, I think there's maybe some branding and marketing in your future too, for the phrase like that. And I think you're the first person at the time of recording to pick that flavor. So congrats on first one on that. Hey, it was tasty when I tried it, so it sounds delicious. I haven't had it yet, but I will definitely try to. Chris Wilson, thank you so much for joining me here on following the gone. I know you've got to run. You've got lawyer things to do. Thank you so much for joining us here today. I appreciate it. Thank you for having me, Sean, I appreciate it. Take care. Thank you, syls, for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show probably supports the Shreier Honors College Emergency Fund Benefiting Scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise DOT P S U, Dot d U. Forward Slash shreier. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe, like or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the college on Facebook, twitter, instagram and Linkedin to say up to date on news, events and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or a scholar alum who would like to join us as a guest here on following the gone, please connect with me at scholar alumni at P S U, Dot e d U. until next time, please stay well and we are.

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