GVSU professor to appear on Jeopardy game show

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As a cultural anthropologist, Deana Weibel knows quite a bit about various cultures through the ages, yet her knowledge in other areas was put to the test during her round as a contestant on the popular TV show Jeopardy. Her segment will air locally at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 22, on CBS.

Filmed in March at the Sony Pictures Studio in Culver City, California, Weibel has had to keep quiet about her results for months, per show policy. First place winners keep the money earned for giving correct responses during the show. Second place wins $2,000 and third place wins $1,000. Only the first place winner is allowed to play the next game, with two new contestants. In the rare instance of a player winning several games in a row, they may be invited to play in the Tournament of Champions.

Weibel, who lived in California until 2003, had applied to be on the show once before, in the mid-1990s, but didn’t pass the qualifying test. She now lives in Wyoming, Mich., and teaches cultural anthropology at Grand Valley State University. She and her then fiancé, now husband, Glen Swanson, decided to try out together. He has worked as a historian with NASA and as the education director at the Michigan Space Center in Jackson. In the spring of 2006 they both took a qualifying test online.

“You don’t hear anything immediately,” said Weibel. “About a month later they sent an e-mail saying I was part of a random sample of people who passed the test and were willing to travel to a major city and audition.”

In June the couple traveled to Chicago, where she, and at least 500 others, faced another written test, learning to use the buzzer and playing a practice game with two other potential players. The group was told that those selected would be kept in the pool of possible contestants for one year. After that time passed, Weibel thought she didn’t make the cut. Then, in February of this year, she received a call from the show’s producer, asking her to come to California for taping. It worked out to be during her spring break recess from the university.

Weibel said the application process wasn’t so bad since she is pretty outgoing and used to standing in front of the classroom. But then, when the cameras were rolling and they told her 17 million people watch the show, her heart was hammering.

“Mine was the last show filmed that day,” said Weibel. “It was very nerve-racking, watching everyone else go first.”

On Friday night, Weibel will be watching the show with a group of friends and family. In a taped promotional segment she was asked to give a “hometown howdy” for the local CBS affiliate, WWMT in Kalamazoo. “So I said, ‘Hey Grand Rapids, see if I can win another national championship for GVSU!’” It can be viewed online this week at www.sonypictures.com/tv/shows/jeopardy/showguide_thisweek.php

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