May 2016 Articles

Bryn Mawr for the Win, Alex!

JeopardyBy Mahira Ahmed Tiwana ’16

In recent months, three Bryn Mawr alumnae have appeared as contestants on Jeopardy!—Amanda Darby ’10, Jessica Kiefer ’02, and Kerstin Nordstrom ’04. It got us to wonder just how many Mawrters have been on the show, so we did an unofficial poll on Facebook. See below for the astounding results! Here, Darby, an English major at Bryn Mawr and librarian by profession, gives us the inside scoop on what it’s like to appear on America’s most popular trivia show.

What’s the audition process like?

Long. I took the online test of 50 trivia questions in February 2015 and was invited for a screen test in June. At that time, I took another written test and did a simulated game-play. It wasn’t until November that I was invited to tape the show. I was thrilled!

How did you prepare for the show?

I did the opposite of what most people do—I tried not to study too much because I felt that drilling trivia and getting stressed out would be counterproductive. I did do some trivia with friends and family, but I wasn’t practicing all day, every day. I’ve always been an avid reader and have done well with trivia games so I knew I’d do okay.

What was it like on set?

I was really nervous before I left for the studio. I couldn’t believe the day was finally here, but I relaxed once I got there. They tape an entire week’s worth of episodes at once, so I was one of about 15 contestants. Everyone was really nice, and the staff talked us through potential strategies and rules. Having watched Jeopardy! since I was about seven, it was so cool to walk onto the set and meet Alex Trebek! I told the guy next to me that I might need to hold his hand because I was so excited.

Did you have any strategies?

I really wanted to find daily doubles before anyone else. A friend had found a chart online showing that they most often appear on the left side of the screen toward the bottom, so that’s where I focused when I had control of the board. And I wouldn’t ring in unless I was completely sure of an answer. You lose money for wrong answers, and that wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.

Are you happy with the outcome?

I played as well as I could. The final category was something I know almost nothing about, “Nobel Prizes in Physics.” But I had a really good time and the guy who beat me went on to win several episodes, so I’m glad I lost to a good player.

How did your Bryn Mawr education help your success?

I credit Bryn Mawr for my success in two specific categories…. “Famous Women” and “Books Published in the 1980s.” And my theater minor helped my confidence on camera—I had no stage fright. But generally speaking, Bryn Mawr encourages its students to take risks and be self-confident. I took the online test several times before getting the call to audition. If I hadn’t tried that second time, I would have never gotten the call. I learned, if you want something, just go for it!


Following is the unofficial Bryn Mawr College Jeopardy! Roll Call. If your name should be here, drop us a line at bulletin@brynmawr.edu, and we’ll add you to the list.

  • Praggya Rustagi Barretto ’01
  • Melanie Bruchet ’09: I was on the first-ever Kids Week tournament in 1999 and also the Kids Week reunion show that aired in 2008 (shout-out to Radnor for hosting an epic Jeo-party!)
  • Amanda Darby ’10
  • Melanie Evans ’97
  • Helen Freeman ’02: I was on in 2007. I was also an IBM Watson tester in which former Jeopardy! contestants played Jeopardy! against the IBM supercomputer.
  • Jen Noon Hess ’96: It was a total blast, and I wish I could do it again! No Champions League for me, but I used my winnings to help pay for my wedding and to renovate my newly purchased house, so it worked out pretty well!
  • Susan Kulp Herder ’92
  • Lorraine Hirsch ’76
  • Charlotte Evans Hotchkiss ’81
  • Wendy Warren Keebler ’78
  • Jessica Kiefer ’02
  • Brigid Laurie ’99: I represented Bryn Mawr in the 1997 College Tournament. I was a quarterfinalist, so I only had one appearance, but considering I had to compete against a few thousand other college students to get on air, I’d say not too shabby.
  • MaryAnne Lyons ’99
  • Mindy Steinberg McGrath ’00
  • Kerstin Nordstrom ’04
  • Gilda Rodríguez ’07: I was on ¡Jeopardy! in Mexico in 1999. It ran from 1998–2000 and was exclusively a teen version. The host, Omar Fierro, is a well-known TV actor and host in Latin America, and he and Alex Trebek had matching mustaches at the time. I was 14 and won twice but lost my third game.
  • Joanna Rom ’74
  • Susan Sternfield Shaw ’81: I did not win, although I was ahead for most of the game. Had one of those moments where they accepted a wrong answer from somebody else, then “corrected it” at a commercial break. It totally altered the outcome of the game…. You can see the odd look on my face on the video when her answer was accepted.
  • Megan Susman ’92
  • Cindy Vanderbur ’76: I only tried out because I gave someone else a ride, and I got bored waiting for the test to start, so I took it, too. I’d never really wanted to be on Jeopardy! before that. I won $56,800 in three games.
  • Donna Vogel ’71: A season 24 four-day champion and Tournament of Champions semifinalist!

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