Former Brainiacs

Where are they now? We catch up with three past ‘Brainiacs’ to see where life has taken them.



Leona Thao

Courtesy

Leona Thao

East Central High School, class of 2008

After high school, Thao earned her bachelor’s in business management from Oklahoma State University. She also spent a summer in Washington, D.C., learning how to be a social change agent with the Internal Revenue Service through the OCA National (formerly known as the Organization of Chinese Americans) Summer Internship Program. Then, in 2014, she received the Diversity of Views and Experiences Fellowship to pursue a master’s of public policy and a minor in program evaluation at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Born in Tulsa, the 27-year-old is an independent consultant in St. Paul, Minnesota. She says one of her current projects involves collecting data about the leadership development needs of Hmong girls ages 12-18 living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. The information gathered will help her and her client design a culturally specific impactful leadership program for that population.


What has been your proudest moment to date? “My proudest moment to date is earning my master’s degree,” Thao says. “I’m a child of refugee parents of the Secret War in Laos. As a first-generation college student, many of the things I navigated through were firsts for my family. I’m very privileged because I survived undergraduate and graduate school.”

How do you still embody a “Brainiac?” Along with always wanting to learn and grow, she says, “Everyone is a brainiac in their own way. If you’re passionate about something, pursue it. You’ll be the brainiac of your passion.”

What is the best advice you’ve ever received? To connect with society through responsibility. Thao says, “You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and being responsible for changing it.”

 

 

Blaise Staab

Tulsa Memorial High School, class of 2008

Blaise Staab / Courtesy

After high school, Staab attended Columbia University, where he played Division I basketball and received a degree in mechanical engineering. He says his proudest moment was getting a double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds) against defending national champion the University of Connecticut.

Staab will be an MBA candidate at McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas in Austin this fall. “However, I have enjoyed working for the past five years at ONEOK Partners in Tulsa,” Staab says. “I have been challenged by my work as an engineer, but also have been able to serve my community in many ways.”


Do you keep up with any of the hobbies or activities you did in high school? “I have been fortunate to serve as an assistant coach for my alma mater’s (Memorial High School) boys basketball team for the past three years,” Staab says. Memorial won the state championship in 2008 when Staab was a player, and in 2017 the team won the state championship while he was a coach. “I was also able to coach my younger brother during his senior year at Memorial. That was a real treat.”

How do you still embody a “Brainiac?” “I love standardized tests,” he says. “Studying for the GMAT to get into graduate school, I became obsessed with what I didn’t know. If I got an answer wrong on a practice test, I would get so excited because it was an opportunity to learn something new. I enjoy using this mentality in my life today.”

 

Maya Wei-Haas

Booker T. Washington High School, class of 2005

Maya Wei-Haas / Photo by Valerie Grant

Wei-Haas majored in geology with a minor in chemistry at Smith College. Then she headed to Ohio State University for a doctorate in environmental chemistry. However, halfway through the program she realized she was “no longer enamored with science.” Her now-husband, Travis Brown, suggested she take art classes again since she hadn’t taken any after high school. She eventually earned a science-reporting fellowship at National Geographic. Wei-Haas says, “I haven’t looked back since.”

At 30, she is an editorial assistant for science and innovation at Smithsonian.com. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Although she was on the rowing crew and played violin in high school, “these days I’m a lot less musical,” Wei-Hass says, “but I still try to keep up with athletics.” She makes time to run, cycle, swim and row on stationary machines.

Her passions in high school and undergrad might have changed, but she says, “I will always be the slightly nerdy, shy gal who is giggling at comics on my computer. And now, I have more people to share these geeky moments with.”


What has been your proudest moment to date? “That first time I saw my byline under the National Geographic masthead,” Wei-Haas says. “It was one of the first times in many years of doubt that I thought I had found myself.”

She says her biggest goal right now is to spark curiosity in others, by opening “people’s minds up to new concepts and ideas, hopefully giving them a new way to think about the world and the happenings around them.”

How do you still embody a “Brainiac?” “I’ve never thought of myself as a ‘Brainiac’ per se. I honestly doubt my true intelligence daily,” she says. “But I work hard at everything I do, which I’ve learned counts for way more than basic smarts.”

 

 

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Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
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Cost: $12.50 adult entry

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Cost: $12.50 adult entry

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Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
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View map »

More information

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Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
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View map »

More information

The Museum’s Dickinson Research Center is home to more than 700,000 photographs, 44,000 books, and perhaps unexpectedly, at least 1,000 horses. Meet some of the herd in Horseplay, the new...

Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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View map »

More information

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Cost: $12.50 adult entry

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More information

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Cost: Free for Garden members & their dogs. Admission + $4 per dog for non-members.

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View map »


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More information

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Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
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View map »

More information

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Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles — both “over there” and on the home front — in helping the Allies win World War I. The American Expeditionary Force (AEF)...

Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »

More information

The Museum’s Dickinson Research Center is home to more than 700,000 photographs, 44,000 books, and perhaps unexpectedly, at least 1,000 horses. Meet some of the herd in Horseplay, the new...

Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
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View map »

More information

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Cost: $15 per story

Where:
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Sponsor: Winter's Grace Publishing
Telephone: 918-852-6311
Contact Name: C.D. Smart
Website »

More information

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Contact Name: Samantha Knappen
Website »

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Cocktails, dinner and program;  silent and live auctions followed by a Casino and dancing.

Cost: $200 per person, sponsorships available

Where:
The Mayo Hotel
115 W. 5th Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Tulsa CASA, Inc.
Telephone: 918-584-2272
Contact Name: Paula McKay
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America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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COOKING UP COMPASSION FACT SHEET ABOUT THE EVENT:  Long time donors Margo and Kent Dunbar are Honorary Chairs for the event. Now in its fourteenth year, Cooking Up Compassion raises funds for the...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tulsa Ballroom at the Cox Business Center
3rd & Houston
Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74135
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Sponsor: Catholic Charities
Telephone: 918-508-7115
Contact Name: Jennifer Allen
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Support youth leaders emerging from Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Tulsa. Each candidate is competing for higher education scholarships. Our goal is for youth leader to be a winner and advance with...

Cost: $50 Individual Tickets and Sponsor Levels

Where:
Global Learning Center at ORU
7777 S Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74171
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Sponsor: The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Tulsa
Telephone: 918-587-7801
Contact Name: Samantha Knappen
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Dancing, cocktails, Cajun and jazz...all of the goodies that Mardi Gras has!  Come join New Hope Oklahoma in a night of Mardi Gras fun! New Hope Oklahoma strives to end generational incarceration,...

Cost: TBD

Where:
The Bond Event Center
608 E 3rd St
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Cocktails, dinner and program with live and silent auctions followed by a Casino and dancing.

Cost: $200 per person, sponsorships available

Where:
The Mayo Hotel
115 W. 5th Street
Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa CASA, Inc.
Telephone: 918-584-2272
Contact Name: Paula McKay
Website »

More information

6-10:30 p.m. Southern Hills Country Club, 2636 E. 61st Street. The 2019 Lunar New Year Gala at Southern Hills Country Club will be an elegant evening of candlelight, fine dining, children’s party...

Cost: $150, individual tickets; $1,000-$25,000, sponsorships.

Where:
Southern Hills Country Club
2636 E. 61st Street
Tulsa, OK  74136
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Sponsor: Dillon International
Telephone: 918-748-5613
Contact Name: Marcia Graham
Website »

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Dancing, cocktails, Cajun and jazz...all of the goodies that Mardi Gras has!  Come join New Hope Oklahoma in a night of Mardi Gras fun!  New Hope Oklahoma strives to end generational...

Cost: TBD

Where:
The Bond
608 E 3rd St
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »

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Winterset is an annual formal event of the Osteopathic Founders Foundation which brings together the osteopathic profession and their community partners to benefit projects which improve the health...

Cost: $300

Where:
Hyatt Regency Tulsa
100 E 2nd St
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Osteopathic Founders Foundation
Telephone: 918-551-7300
Contact Name: Michele Caine
Website »

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Sunday in the Park with George follows painter Georges Seurat in the months leading up to the completion of his most famous painting, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." Consumed...

Cost: $25.00 for adults, $22.50 for students & seniors with ID

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: American Theatre Company
Telephone: (918) 747-9494
Contact Name: Meghan Hurley
Website »

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TULtalk


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“Sunday in the Park” is no walk in the park

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