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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

She's A Brainiac, For Sure

By Zac Farber

Standing at the front of the conference room in the Westin Hotel of Chicago last Saturday, Amia Jackson ’10 personified composure and spunk as she belted out “Scotland the Brave” to the three-judge panel that would determine her fate. But beneath her cool demeanor, Jackson’s heart was palpitating and her hands were sweating out of the excitement and pressure of the moment.Jackson was living the dream of millions of television viewers. She was trying out for College Jeopardy.

Her odyssey began on Sept. 29 when she sat around the Turck One lounge and completed the online test on a friend’s laptop.

“The test itself wasn’t really hard,” Jackson said, “but I was extremely nervous. I only got fifteen seconds per question and I could see the questions counting down”

Assistance from friends added to the ease of the online test.

“I had help from Arjay [Velasco ’10], Owen [Rudloff ’10], and Stuart [Webster ’10].”

Velasco confirmed his part in helping Jackson with the test designed for one person but denied any wrongdoing.

“I helped her with a literary character-identifying Laurie from Little Women,” Velasco said. “It didn’t feel like cheating. I just helped because she wanted help.”

Velasco admitted that his motivations were less than pure altruism.

“We agreed to one percent so that if she wins the hundred thousand dollar championship I get one thousand dollars,” Velasco said.

Rudloff said that his actions were not dishonest and points out that he is not in a position to receive financial compensation for his help.

“I did it for love of the trivia,” he said. “It wasn’t about the money, it was never about money.”

After submitting the online test, Jackson just had to wait.” Luckily for Jackson, the wait was not long. She received an e-mail five days later, on Oct. 4, inviting her to a callback in Chicago.

Jackson was overjoyed.

“I felt great. I was fucking ecstatic!” she said, all the joys of the e-mail notice rushing back to her. “I showed the e-mail to everyone I knew because I’m kind of a dork”

Jackson committed herself to a regimen of rigorous study.

“I got a bunch of the ‘Don’t Know Much About’ series,” she said. “I studied history, geography, the fifty states and the Bible”

Soon, it was time for her tryout. Around midnight, last Friday night, Jackson departed from the Twin Cities for the Windy City on a $25 Megabus. Arriving at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jackson said she was exhausted but exhilarated.

“I went inside the Amtrak Station and winded up changing my clothes and brushing my teeth,” she said. “I kind of felt like a hobo.”

Her outsider status did not end there.

“I was putting on makeup at the Westin, where Jeopardy was hosting callbacks,” Jackson said. “There were two middle-aged, obviously upper-class, white women who I swear thought I was a prostitute.”

She settled into the large conference room, overshadowed by the big screen used for projecting questions. Jackson and the 22 other contestants practiced with pens before the buzzers.

The contestants were then given a comprehensive 50-question test. Jackson was cryptic about its contents.

“We’re not allowed to disclose questions,” she said.

The next hurdle was the mock game. Contestants came up to the podium and buzzed in answers to questions. According to Jackson, charisma was the main skill being tested in the mock game.

“The purpose was to show personality-not to get questions right,” she said.

Jackson worked hard to emulate what she said were ideal Jeopardy contestants.

“I spoke loudly and worked on shortening the names of categories,” she said.

The final ordeal came in the form of a public interview. Jackson radiated charisma. Along with singing Macalester’s Scottish theme song, Jackson showcased a physical talent.

“I popped my shoulder out of place and explained that I don’t sleep with a pillow because I’m double-jointed and can use my arm.”

Jackson said that she felt she captured the judges’ attention.

“Whenever there was a question about Scotland the judges would say ‘Think of Amia,'” she said.

Jackson got back on the Megabus and was back on campus Saturday night, telling everyone who would listen that her tryout for College Jeopardy was far from trivial.

If she becomes a contestant, Jeopardy will fly her to an undisclosed college in Southern California where she will be put up in a hotel with a daily stipend.

But, Jackson said, a Jeopardy employee told the contestants, “You’ll have to buy your own beer.”

Jackson will receive the results of her tryout in early March and, if all turns out well, film in early April.

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