Culver City, CA – Warren Wilson botany professor Alisa Hove won third place and $25,000 in famed game show Jeopardy’s “Professor’s Tournament” that aired last month.
“This really felt like a dream come true,” she told the Tribune. “I’ve enjoyed the show for years.” Jeopardy is on its 38th season. Hove noted how “many of the questions were really hard. I was glad that I had studied in advance of the tournament. I went into the tournament not really knowing what to expect. So, it was a real thrill to be able to compete in such lively games with really knowledgable professors — and to win.“
Prof. Hove said she earned a total cash prize of $25,000 — $10,200 of that was for winning a semifinal round on the show. She plans to use her winnings to take her family to Vietnam to show her children their family heritage once pandemic-induced travel restrictions eventually ease.
Prof. Hove advanced from the quarterfinals to semifinals to finals, where she finished third. She won her quarterfinal contest largely with a correct guess in Double Jeopardy with its double points. She beat a French literature professor at Delaware and a University of San Francisco professor of business and innovation.
Then in a semifinal, Hove defeated a Penn State English professor and a Northern Arizona professor of elementary science education. The overall winner is Sam Buttrey, associate professor of operations research at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
It took merely two days in late October to tape the entire ten-episode tournament, she noted. Hove first appeared on Dec. 10. The finals aired Dec. 17. The show’s studio is part of the Sony Pictures studios lot in Culver City, Calif.
This is the first time Hove auditioned for the show, let alone made it on. There were several steps in the process of getting onto Jeopardy, and then advancing in the competition. First up is an online test. Next is an audition. She passed both.
The botany professor is chair of the biology department of Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa since 2017, five years after she began teaching there. Hove taught for six prior years at Cal-Santa Barbara in her hometown. Her Ph.D. is in plant evolutionary ecology from Cal-Davis in 2012. She has a biology degree from Cal-Davis, and a master’s in botany from Humboldt State in 2001.
It is “sweet to get congratulatory emails from students,” she said. She leads by example in a life lesson. “I often encourage them to put themselves out there and try new things. So I am glad that I got to show them an example of how embracing this mindset can yield positive outcomes.”
A word play challenge is an example of one Hove got that was not in her “wheel house,” so to speak. “It took me a while to come up with the correct answer,” Prof. Hove said. The challenge “involved two words that differ by just one letter. I am glad that I was able to correctly answer ‘revenue’ and ‘revenge.’”
When asked about the questions she got that are most difficult for most people, she replied that “I’m pretty proud of having known an answer on Heloise and Abelard, as well as the Italian renaissance poet Petrarch.“
Other questions stood out. “I really loved the 19th Century British Authors question during the quarter final game, because I love to read and Mary Shelley is an amazing author. It was also fun to see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World — which is a hugely entertaining film — show up unexpectedly during the finals.“
Technically, contestants are given answers and they must answer with the corresponding question to that answer.
She quipped on the show that “I might slay,” if there was a category dedicated to the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
“To be here is just surreal,” Hove told show host Mayim Bialik at the end of the final round. “To be here with fellow people who have a passion for discovery and education is just an extra big treat.”
Hove told the Tribune she was impressed with the versatility of other professor contestants’ backgrounds. They spanned “large research universities, community college, private liberal arts college, minority serving institutions, and small liberal arts colleges. Although we teach in different environments, we had so much in common when it came to talking about our craft of teaching, research and scholarship.”
These professors exchanged stories while waiting for their turn to play on Jeopardy. They waited on the Wheel of Fortune stage, which served as a “green (waiting) room.” Hove said contestants spent “many hours” there “chatting about our respective institutions, our students, and of course our enjoyment of Jeopardy.” She said it was “really neat to hear about how learning happens in these various settings, and how we’ve all pivoted our approaches to teaching in response to the pandemic.
Warren Wilson classes were exclusively online Jan. 10-22 to start the spring 2022 semester. All college-related travel is suspended until Jan. 23. Starting Jan. 24, students have options to take classes on-campus or online, according to the college’s websites.
Prof. Buttrey won the final round of the “Professors Tournament” and the $100,000 grand prize, as well as a seat on the show’s “Tournament of Champions.” A decisive correct guess by Buttrey in Final Jeopardy! was “Who was Georges Seurat?” That matched the host’s clue of the inventor of pointillist (neo-impressionism with dots) painting.