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11.29.2021

Meet the 2021 Professors Tournament Contestants

Class is in session! In our first-ever Professors Tournament, educators from 15 colleges and universities will compete for a $100,000 grand prize and a spot in the upcoming Tournament of Champions.

Hosted by Mayim Bialik, the tournament kicks off Monday, December 6. But first, let’s meet the professors who will take the ultimate test with Jeopardy!


J.P. Allen
Professor of Business and Innovation at the University of San Francisco in San Francisco, CA

J.P. Allen

On his relationship with Jeopardy!: “I've been trying for so long to get on the show. Actually I did a live audition in Chicago 20 years ago and qualified there. It’s been a part of my life for so long ever since then. And I used to watch with my grandparents before that. I can't imagine my life without Jeopardy!”

Hester Blum
Professor of English at Penn State University in University Park, PA

Hester Blum

On her relationship with Jeopardy!: “My relationship to Jeopardy! goes back to high school and I watched it daily at the time. One of the biggest regrets and embarrassments in my life was that I sent in a postcard for the teen tournament and I was selected randomly to come try out, but I didn’t go because I had basketball practice, which was not the right decision to have made, but 30-plus years later and here I am.”

Sam Buttrey
Associate Professor of Operations Research at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA

Sam Buttrey

On what inspired him to try out for the Professors Tournament: “I try out more or less every year, just to see if I can keep up with the young folks and keep those answers coming. During the pandemic, it felt like a fun thing to try when I did the online test. It’s kind of a dream come true, if you will.”

Marti Canipe
Professor of Elementary Science Education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ

Marti Canipe

On a special ritual when watching Jeopardy!: “I make everybody in the house be quiet so you can actually hear the clues. Then we all try to answer it and see who is fastest.”

Lisa Dresner
Associate Professor of Writing Studies at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY

Lisa Dresner

On Jeopardy! playing a role in her career path as an educator: “It does teach me about lots of various things. I feel like there's no useless knowledge.”

Ramón Guerra
Associate Professor of English American Literature and Latino Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in Omaha, NE

Ramón Guerra

On his relationship with Jeopardy!: “Oh gosh, I've watched Jeopardy! since I can remember, probably 10 years old or so. I’d get home from school, work through the cartoons, and then watch Jeopardy! I scheduled my college classes around it so I could be sure to be done by that time [to watch].”

Gautam Hans
Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville, TN

Gautam Hans

On his relationship with Jeopardy!: “I have been a lifelong Jeopardy! watcher since I was a small kid in elementary school. In 3rd grade, I went as Alex for Halloween. I wore a suit and a paste-on mustache.”

John Harkless
Associate Professor of Chemistry at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

John Harkless

On what inspired him to try out for the Professors Tournament: “A lot of my lifelong friends are into Jeopardy! I have one colleague in particular who we would always remind each other to try out. I saw the announcement that Jeopardy! was looking for college professors, and I have a history of trying to run experiments and seeing what happens. Here I am now!”

Ed Hashima
Professor of History at American River College in Sacramento, CA

Ed Hashima

On Jeopardy! playing a role in his career path as an educator: “I never find myself at a loss to provide some interesting tidbits to my classroom. Jeopardy! has definitely contributed to that.”

Gary Hollis
Professor of Chemistry at Roanoke College in Salem, VA

Gary Hollis

On his relationship with Jeopardy!: “I have been watching for as long as I can remember. I remember being a child and watching Art Fleming on a black-and-white television. It was a special thing I did with my mother.”

Alisa Hove
Professor of Botany at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC

Alisa Hove

On her relationship to Jeopardy!: “I started watching Jeopardy! when I was a kid in middle school with my mom. It became one of our favorite family shows that we watched together. In fact, when we were kids, we used to tease my mom that she had a huge crush on Alex Trebek.”

Ashleigh Lawrence-Sanders
Assistant Professor of U.S. and African American History at University of Colorado-Boulder in Boulder, CO

Ashleigh Lawrence-Sanders

On Jeopardy! playing a role in her career path as an educator: “Well, first you have to know a lot of facts to be a history professor. You have to be able to retain a lot of facts and a lot of information. I think the other thing is just how much you randomly learn while watching Jeopardy! That just translates to how much I love being a professor — to see that light bulb go off in a student’s head is just wonderful whenever you have a good lesson or lecture.”

Katie Reed
Associate Professor of Musicology at California State University-Fullerton in Fullerton, CA

Katie Reed

On Jeopardy! playing a role in her career path as an educator: “Knowledge has always been valued in my family, so the idea of practicing that at home with Jeopardy! definitely led me to pursue higher education. Fun and knowledge is definitely something I try to bring to the classroom because I think all learning should be fun, and that’s what Jeopardy! does best.”

Deborah Steinberger
Associate Professor of French Literature at the University of Delaware in Newark, DE

Deborah Steinberger

On her relationship with Jeopardy!: “Ever since I was a little kid I would watch Jeopardy! with my family, especially with my grandmother, and we just had a lot of fun with it.”

Julia Williams
Professor of English at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, IN

Julia Williams

On her relationship with Jeopardy!: “My husband is an avid Jeopardy! player, and his mother was an avid Jeopardy! player. I’ve played with both of them after dinner. We even made excel spreadsheets to keep score. He's more serious than I am, but I do keep score.”