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MTU professor Holly Hassel competes in “Jepordy” Champions Wildcard Tournaments

Michigan Tech’s own “Jeopardy!” champion Holly Hassel returned to compete in the quarterfinals of the Champions Wildcard Tournament that aired on Jan. 22.

Hassel, a Professor and Director of Composition at Tech, was invited to participate in the tournament after winning a game of “Jeopardy!” in June. After a triple stumper in Final Jeopardy, she ended in second place and earned $5,000.

A long-time “Jeopardy!” enthusiast, Hassel revealed her deep-rooted interest in trivia competitions, dating back to her childhood. Growing up in rural Minnesota, she aspired to be on the show but faced challenges in auditioning due to the show’s location constraints. It wasn’t until the development of online auditions that Hassel could pursue her dream.

Hassel expressed her excitement and acknowledged the high caliber of competition she was up against. Despite the challenge, she saw the opportunity to enhance her performance through dedicated preparation, including reading nonfiction children’s books, watching Crash Course videos, and writing songs.

Reflecting on her strategy during the tournament, Hassel shared her focus on buzzer strategy and assertiveness. She acknowledged the importance of taking calculated risks, even if it meant venturing into unfamiliar territories, “I knew that I tended to maybe hesitate unless I 100 percent knew the answer right away. I did some practicing with my husband, and he was like, you get more of them right than you do wrong. I planned to buzz in on everything or if not everything, at least, like, the first two rows, just try to buzz. So I definitely was a lot more assertive this time.”

Regarding behind-the-scenes moments, Hassel shed light on the connection among contestants and the swift pace of taping, “When I previously participated, I was just there for one day of taping. For the champions, it was like, you’re gonna be here for five days with all these people who are taping. So, you really get to know the other players. We all hang out in the green room and see each other in the hotel bar. There’s very much a sense of camaraderie among players. It’s not some cutthroat vibe.”

In response to the community’s reaction, Hassel described the positive support she received from locals, emphasizing the pride in representing her current residence in the UP. “I’ve only been here six months, but we’re really excited about being in Copper Country. So it was like kind of nice that I could be like, hey, here’s this really cool place, and I live here,” she said.

When asked about future game show aspirations, Hassel expressed contentment with her “Jeopardy!” experience and highlighted the unique fit of the show for her broad knowledge base and quick thinking, “I feel like this was my little game show run, my 15 minutes, and I really had a good time. I don’t know that I would want to do any other game show. There are people in this game show circuit who do multiple shows, but I’m pretty happy being an academic.”

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