For LSU senior Kevin Brown, competing on “Jeopardy! College Championship” left a lasting impression.
Brown, an avid quiz bowl competitor in high school, began watching “Jeopardy!” nightly as a freshman in Evangeline Hall. Brown said the show provided him an opportunity to bond with other residents and meet people as an out-of-state student.
As his freshman year passed, Brown’s love of “Jeopardy!” grew and he decided to audition for the show the following summer. He advanced to an in-person audition in Los Angeles, but ultimately wasn’t selected for the show.
Soon after, Sony Pictures Entertainment placed a hold on auditions for the College Championship. As the years passed, Brown said the idea that he wouldn’t have the opportunity to represent LSU on “Jeopardy!” nagged him.
For Brown, competing in the College Championship would provide an opportunity to challenge the public’s perception about a university whose image is tied strongly to athletics.
“People look at LSU and they immediately think of football…. but LSU is about so much more than that,” Brown said. “There are plenty of amazing people doing amazing research, and doing great work at LSU that’s not sports related.”
Everything finally fell into place last fall. Applications for the show re-opened and New Orleans was one of several locations for in-person casting. It was Brown’s moment.
Brown was selected from a group of 250 students nationwide and was flown to Los Angeles to film the show in early January. His episode originally aired Feb. 2.
Competing on the “Jeopardy!” stage in front of a live studio audience was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, Brown said. It was incredible to see the set come to life after so many years of watching the show, and gratifying to represent LSU on a national platform, he said.
Brown said the experience was better than he could have hoped.
“It was really an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “It’s going to go down as easily a highlight of my college career, and probably a lifelong highlight.”
While Brown didn’t leave Los Angeles with the coveted championship title, he said he learned valuable lessons and made lasting friendships. He and the other competitors remain in touch, and that their intelligence and celebration of knowledge inspires him.
Brown said being surrounded by a group of proud young intellectuals has pushed him to share his own knowledge more openly. He said in the past he was more reserved about his love of learning, but now recognizes he should be proud about the things he knows and share them openly and confidently.
Brown said he thinks celebrating knowledge is a big part of the “Jeopardy!” spirit and he hopes others recognize its value.
“I hope most people feel that knowledge is something that’s meant to be shared, and learning in itself is enjoyable and is its own experience,’’ Brown said. “It’s not a means to an end. Learning is its own end.”
Brown also took to heart the idea that winning isn’t everything. He said he believed he would advance further in the competition than he did, but that when he didn’t his joy outweighed his disappointment.
Brown said having a positive attitude can shape an experience, and that, win or lose, you can be happy if you’re willing to embrace positivity. He’s applied this knowledge to his everyday life, and has used it to help him put his performance in school and life into perspective, he said.
His positivity and intelligence will be assets as he takes his next steps in life.
Brown is graduating from LSU in December with a degree in environmental engineering and intends to apply to graduate school for hydrology, with a focus in water resources management and planning. He said he hopes to impact people’s lives, especially people living in the West in states such as his home state of Idaho.
With severe droughts plaguing the area and historically low snowfall, Brown said he hopes to work toward a solution that will allow people in the region to live sustainably. He said he’s confident his education at LSU has him on the right track to making a difference.
Photo by Greta Jines.