When Lucy Greenman ’22 left the William & Mary campus shortly before Thanksgiving to compete in the Jeopardy! National College Championship, she didn’t even tell her roommate.
“They didn’t want me to tell anybody – and I mean anybody,” she said. “I told my roommate I was leaving to go see my sister in a play, which I did see my sister in a play, but then I got on a plane to L.A. the next morning.”
Greenman, an Estes 1693 Scholar at William & Mary, said her professors were understanding during the week she had to miss class for taping, even missing a midterm, which she wound up taking virtually from her hotel room in Los Angeles. Now she’s thrilled to be able to show them the reason behind her disappearance.
“As a student in one of my courses, Lucy amazed me by how quickly she picked up concepts and how well she retained information,” said Jen Mellor, professor of economics at William & Mary, who has been a mentor to Greenman. “She is one of those people who can easily draw connections between material she learned in a course years ago and a book she’s reading or a conversation she’s having today. It should be fun to watch her compete!”
The tournament, which features 36 students from 36 colleges and universities throughout the country, will premiere on Feb. 8 and Greenman will represent W&M on the episode that airs on Feb. 15.
“I was over the moon excited to be asked to compete,” Greenman said. “And now I’m thrilled to get to tell people about it. My grandma was one of my first calls. She didn’t pick up, because she was watching Jeopardy!”
Greenman is set to graduate at the end of this semester. She is majoring in Health Analytics, a major she designed and declared just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She’s planning to attend nursing school next year.
“Officially, the major is a blend of public health, biology and data science,” she said. “But over these past two years, it has grown to include econ and public policy, for reasons that are evident to all of us now.”
The Jeopardy! training began in earnest last fall, the first semester of Greenman’s senior year. She purchased an online study guide and tuned in to watch the show every night – while keeping up with a full course load.
“I would look through flashcards as I walked to class,” she said. “So, I’m studying for microbiology while also learning everything about U.S. presidents, world rivers and random pop stars.”
There was one thing she couldn’t have prepared for until she was in the studio – the board.
“You don’t realize this until you’re there, but the display of what you see on TV is not the same as the display of what you see in the studio. The font is really, really small,” she said. “I should have worn glasses, because the clue board is pretty far away. There is no zooming in like the way it does on TV.”
Greenman said the entire experience was a blast – albeit surreal. There was no live audience due to COVID-19 precautions. The crew shot six episodes a day. On some days, she was in the studio for 10 hours.
“It was an amazing experience, but so challenging, too,” Greenman said. “You’re trying to watch your dollar amount, your competitor’s dollar amounts, keep up with the category – all while thinking about the sensitivity of the buzzer and the buzzer speed. I think of myself as being good at multitasking, but it was totally too many things for my brain to think about at once.”
Greenman said the most rewarding part of the experience was getting to know the other 35 competitors. She had never been to California and was able to explore Los Angeles with students from all over the country.
“We were all keeping the same schedule, so we were getting dinners together and spending time together in the mornings before getting picked up from our hotel for taping,” she said. “We definitely got close.”
She added that any rivalry seen on screen dissolves after leaving the set. Even in pandemic conditions, she said the students were able to make friendships and build memories that will last for years to come.
“My advice to any student reading this is they should go online and take the Anytime! Test,” Greenman said. “Give it a shot. You never know. I took that test every year. It took three years, but I made it!”
Jeopardy! National College Championship premieres Feb. 8, at 8 p.m. on ABC. Greenman will appear on Feb. 15 at 8 p.m.
Adrienne Berard, Assistant Director for Research, News & Analytics