Last summer, Adjunct Instructor of Business Carol O’Laughlin entered a contest she saw mentioned in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The prize? Red carpet bleacher seats at the Oscars for each winner and three guests. The odds? Impossible. While it’s difficult to get exact numbers, O’Laughlin has been told up to 60,000 people were vying for the 300 seats.

O’Laughlin talked her sister, niece and a friend into coughing up their driver license numbers and other personal information in order to register them all for the contest, and then she pretty much forgot about it. Months later, standing in her driveway flipping through her mail, O’Laughlin found a letter from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It turns out the impossible was not so impossible after all – as long as O’Laughlin and her guests agreed to a long list of restrictions and passed multiple security checks, including criminal background checks. As soon as O’Laughlin got the final confirmation from the Academy that her and her guests would be allowed to attend, she called the movie editor from the Post-Gazette, Barbara Vancheri, to tell her that she’d seen the contest mentioned in Vancheri’s column, and that she’d won seats.

“Barbara and I went to fourth grade together,” says O’Laughlin. “I didn’t expect her to remember me, but I wanted to let her know about the contest. I didn’t even know if she’d call back.” “She called back right away,” O’Laughlin says with a laugh, “and it was so nice to talk with her. She was thrilled! She let me know what to expect, and she may even do a story on us!”

O’Laughlin and her guests have to pay their own way to the event and are expected to show up at the Kodak Theatre at 8:30 a.m. – even though the stars won’t begin arriving until mid-afternoon. While they will be seated adjacent to the red carpet for the grand entrance, they will not attend the Academy Awards, and instead plan to watch it live with the other contest winners from the El Capitan Theatre across the street. Undaunted, they’ve planned a long weekend in Hollywood, and have created red scarves with the Oscar logo on them to wear to the event.

“They’re sort of Seton Hill colors,” O’Laughlin explains, “and if they let us wear them we’ll hopefully be easier to identify on TV.”

“This is not just fun,” she insists, with a very un-statistics-professor-like chuckle, “this is overwhelmingly fun.”