Winners announced for 16th annual McGraw-Hill Poster Contest


Pictured: Dierflinger, Burrows, Hodson, and McCraw

By: Dr. Andrew Yox, Honors Director

NTCC’s emeritus professor, Dr. Mary Hearron, asked the question in the minds of more than a few. Was not this year’s NTCC scholarly poster contest, fortified by a generous contribution from Beverly Kelley of Mount Vernon, and the continued support of the McGraw-Hill corporation on 10 May, the best ever?  For Dr. Chuck Hamilton, a former NTCC professor, now at Texas A&M University - Central Texas, and also a judge, the answer was an emphatic, “yes.”  In this sixteenth time, for community judges and NTCC students converging into the foyer of the Whatley Center for the Performing Arts at NTCC, there was an electric feel to the competition.  All twelve of the students who competed and won six gold-and-silver awards at the Red River Symposium in Texarkana the week before, were back, trying their best again. Fully eight NTCC professors, a record, were willing to engage in above-and-beyond mentoring, and in most cases, departmental poster purchasing, to prepare the students for this foray. And the judges were ready and knew exactly what to do.  Aside from the two former NTCC professors mentioned above, and one current NTCC staff member, the eight other community judges averaged 8.3 years of experience with this one contest

In 2018, when the contest was low-scaled to prevent ties, no one received an 11 of 12 or better.  This was true as well in 2020, 2021, and 2022. To receive an eleven, a student and their poster must be considered not just exemplary, but a paragon in two of three categories--scholarly originality, persuasiveness and over-all oral and visual impact.  In 2019, one reached an eleven, the winner, Olivia Griffin.  The pandemic year of 2020, a virtual contest, saw the lowest scores ever.  In 2023 Alyssa Breann Ochoa wowed the judges with a 11.6 average, the highest score ever recorded.  However, for the first time in 2024, all four of the medalists received an average score of eleven or better from the judges.

McCraw with Hamilton

McCraw with Dr. Hamilton

The first-place winner of the $400 prize, Luke McCraw, NTCC’s Dr. Charles Florio Scholar, drew from a wealth of experience as a presenter.  Just the week before, he had placed second at Red River with his psychological research on the use of gray-scaling to prevent phone addiction. The film scholar of NTCC’s Caldwell-Winning film, McCraw knew his story on the traveling preachers of early Texas like the days of the week.  The pieces all fell in place.  He had primary-source research gained last summer at the DeGolyer Library archive of SMU.  He had spent last fall semester writing “ideophany” exercises each week on that research that exceeded a standard end-of-the semester essay in history in length. Finally, he was fully conversant with his thesis about the winsome altruistic appeal of Texas’ first Protestant ministers.

Skylar Hodson

Skylar Hodson

The winner of $300 and second prize, Skylar Hodson, also had state-level credentials.  Her essay on the rise and fall of the Texas film industry had secured a second-place state Caldwell Award in the university division. Hodson like McCraw had also won an award at the Red River Symposium the week before, and had presented her work at College Station at the meeting of the Walter Prescott Webb Society of Texas. To secure her research for this project, Hodson embarked on an un-reimbursed trip to Austin last fall, to study at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, and other sites.

George Burrows, a pre-med, non-honors student from Mount Pleasant placed third and won $200. Burrows was one of two students in a special course led by NTCC Professor Dr. Chris McAllister, this past semester, that studied fish parasites, and even journeyed to rivers in Arkansas and tracked un-named species of vertebrate fish leeches.  Burrows like Hodson, and McCraw had experience as a conference presenter, having given a talk last April at the Southwestern Association of Parasitologists, meeting in Kingston, Oklahoma.

Burrows explains his poster

Burrows explains his poster

Finally, Sarah Dierflinger, a first-semester honors scholar placed fourth and won $100 with her study of what motivates college students to select their courses each semester.  Working with sample sizes of over 100 which she gained after a single honors psychology course with Dr. Karyn Skaar this spring, Dierflinger argued that the plurality of college students are most concerned with fulfilling prerequisites, and fitting their classes into their own, often taut schedules. They are less concerned with specific course recommendations, given by others, or special features that a class may offer.

The particular élan of the contest, and the opportunities presented for student growth arise each year because of the quality of the judges.  This year, Andrea Reyes of Hughes Springs again served as adjudicator and judge. Dr. Elaine Beason of Mount Pleasant, Lisa Ellermann of Region VIII, NTCC College Navigator--Paula Flores, Dr. Chuck Hamilton of Mount Pleasant, Emeritus Professor, Dr. Mary Hearron, NTCC Chairman of the Board of Trustees--Chuck Johns, NTCC Patrons--Jerald and Mary Lou Mowery, Rev. Dr. Wayne Renning of Mount Pleasant, and Bryan Trickey each gave multiple students a chance to demonstrate the viability of their ideas.

In addition to the generous benevolence this year of Beverly Kelley of Mount Vernon, NTCC’s yearly poster contest owes much to the continued financial support of the McGraw-Hill Education Corporation over the years.   Again, this year, the contest is beholden to the special work of Bill Welsh, and Casey Slaght who work in the corporate office in Dubuque, Iowa.  

Dierflinger with poster

Dierflinger with her poster

NTCC professors not mentioned above such as Dr. Andrew Daniel, Dr. Melissa Fulgham, Dr. Drew Murphy, Jennifer Sparks, Stacie Yarbrough, Yox and Assistant Honors Director, Melody Mott also played crucial roles in mentoring, setup, and inspiriting the students to prepare for the poster contests this year. The participating students not mentioned above who also energized the meeting included Vanessajane Bayna of Mount Pleasant, Elian Gonzalez of Mount Pleasant, Perla Guzman of Mount Pleasant, Curtis Johnson of Pittsburg, Alison Majors of Mount Pleasant, Michelle Mejia of Sulphur Springs, Victoria Matiz of Mount Pleasant, Neida Perez of Mount Pleasant, Michael Rodriguez of Marrietta, Maddy Smith of Mount Vernon, Liliana Torreblanca of Harts Bluff, Aubrey Watkins of Naples, and Mary-Faith Wilson of Gilmer.

The contest each year is open to all high school and collegiate students in the region. Among the winners, McCraw resides in Mount Vernon, Hodson in Titus County, Burrows in Mount Pleasant, and Dierflinger in Winnsboro.