A senior from the University of Wisconsin-Madison...

Suchita Shah

Will you use your Jeopardy! appearance to impress people?
Um, I don't think I'll use it as a pick-up line, no, but, um, I definitely think it will help with professors--maybe get me out of class a little bit more. [Laughs]

What's the coolest thing about your university?
The coolest thing about the University of Wisconsin-Madison is definitely everyone's a Badger fan--the Badger love and the Badger pride.

Can you sing your school's fight song?
My school's fight song fight song is "On, Wisconsin!":
[Sings]
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! /
Plunge right through that line! /
Run the ball clear down the field, boys /
touchdown sure this time. (U rah rah) /
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! /
Fight on for her fame /
Fight! Badgers! - fight, fight, fight! /
We'll win this game.

What do you love most about Jeopardy!?
Definitely Alex Trebek. He seems like such a classy gentleman and seems like such a wonderful, fun guy.

What do you think of your competition?
I can take those guys!

2008 College Championship wildcard semifinalist: $10,000.

20 and from Holmen, WI at the time of the College Championship.

Jeopardy! Message Board user name: SuchitaS

Suchita's First Blog Entry
Posted May 5, 2008

I was speechless. I, a campus tour guide, was at a loss for words when I first found out that I was selected to compete in the 2008 Jeopardy! College Championship. I mean, what can you really say to that phenomenal news? I think I'm still trying to figure out how to express my elation.

I'm a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the host school for this year's College Championship. Some members of the Clue Crew and the contestant coordinators were in town on Thursday auditioning the many brilliant Badger hopefuls. I had passed the online test in the fall so I had an audition spot reserved. After a grueling 50-question test and an invigorating mock game, we were told to write down our minute-by-minute schedule of where we would be on Friday so that they could tell us in person if we made the show.

As I went through my Friday, I kept looking over my shoulder, hoping that every sound I heard in the hallway outside of my classroom or every person who walked through the door of the Red Gym (where I work) would be the bearer of good news. Just when I stopped thinking about it, it happened.

I was meeting a tour group of prospective graduate students at 12:45 when I heard someone say, "Suchita Shah?!" I turned around, thinking it would be the organizer of the tour group. But instead, I saw Kelly Miyahara of the Clue Crew coming around the corner with a bundle of balloons and a television camera. Think Publisher's Clearing House. Except better. A thousand times better. How was I supposed to give a tour after that, when I'm not only shaking but also stumbling over my own words?

It has been one of my life goals to be on Jeopardy! It's such an honor to have it filmed right here on my campus, and I'm most excited about meeting Alex Trebek. I think I might have to buy him and the other contestants some cheese curds and brats to welcome them all to Madison. I'm not exactly sure yet what I want Alex to ask me during the chat, but I have plenty of embarrassing moments and some eclectic experiences that could come up.

I'm a neurobiology major, but I've spent most of my 3 years of college volunteering for political campaigns and leading a political student organization. I also write for a school newspaper, have done research in art history, played in the University Band, and am involved with a host of other incongruous activities. My passions are many and varied, and I love that I can pursue them all here at UW-Madison.

After I graduate in May, I'm headed to medical school in the fall. I hope to earn both an MD and a Masters in Public Health and eventually work in public health policy, influencing it from a physician's perspective. I would love to specialize in community health and/or international health. Ultimately, I dream of one day being the US Secretary of Health and Human Services.

But that is all further down the road. I'm going to be spending these next few days cramming all the trivia I can handle, especially in pop culture and literature and sports history. Now that I think about it, I need to study just about everything. It's hard to concentrate, though, when I'm so excited! I don't think it has quite sunk in, yet.

- Read Suchita's next entry on May 6!

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First impressions
Posted May 6, 2008

Meeting Alex:

I almost didn't recognize him.

I had just checked into our hotel and decided to walk a couple blocks to the local favorite Ian's Pizza for some dinner Wednesday night, the day before rehearsal. As a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I often frequent Ian's for some late-night sustenance. They have eclectic pizza toppings, ranging from the most popular mac-and-cheese to steak and fries and chicken pesto. The Jeopardy! crew, having been in Madison for about a week, had discovered the restaurant and apparently had recommended it to Alex Trebek.

And that is where I met Alex for the first time – and I almost didn't recognize him. As I was paying for my food, he walked through the door, and I did a double-take, realizing that Mr. Trebek himself was actually here in Madison, in the same restaurant as me.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to meet Alex Trebek, if for no other reason than he hosts the only TV show I watch religiously. So, after I actually recognized him standing in line, I decided to go over and shake his hand.

What I wasn't expecting was that he would recognize me. I guess he had done his homework and learned about all of us contestants. He even joked with me about my neurobiology major.

Elated and energized after this brief interaction, I headed back to the hotel to rest up for the next day, one full of interviews and rehearsals. It was kind of weird staying in a hotel when my apartment was five blocks away, but I loved being there with all the other contestants and the Jeopardy! crew. I guess it's my duty as the hometown girl to show everyone else around my city and hope the Midwestern hospitality helps them feel comfortable! I should have brought them all cheese curds…

Rehearsal Day:
I don't know what I was expecting, but all the other contestants are absolutely wonderful! They're fun and friendly, and we all bonded immediately. I don't know if I was expecting us to be antisocial or awkward, but everyone is fantastic and definitely has a vibrant personality. Sure, there was the gentle ribbing and jokes about rival schools, but it was all in good fun. And that's what we are all there for – to have fun. Of course we all wanted to win, but, for me, the coolest part was that I was there in the company of 14 other amazing individuals and fulfilling a life dream of being on Jeopardy!

And the first day did indeed feel like a dream. It was a surreal experience; it hadn't sunk in yet that I was actually going to be competing on national television. And it didn't help that the Kohl Center, a place where I've watched the Badger basketball and hockey teams, looked nothing like the Kohl Center. It was entirely transformed into a gorgeous set for the show, with huge video screens and a backdrop of the Memorial Union and Science Hall (campus architectural wonders). And of course the requisite Thinker statue.

Getting my makeup done by professional artists was also what made the whole experience seem like a fantasy-land. We kept joking that we wished that we could bring the ladies home with us, to do our makeup on a daily basis.

The makeup, while fun, was also a necessity not just because Jeopardy! is in HD but also for all the interviews and promos we were doing that day. It was a media frenzy, especially for me because I was the University of Wisconsin – Madison representative. I wasn't counting how many interviews I did (it was a LOT), and the whole day of interviews blurred together. I don't know how the celebrities do it! I was tired of the "paparazzi" even after one day! But it was still really cool, I'll admit, to be a local celebrity, getting my fifteen minutes of fame.

Most of the media outlets had the typical questions, like How did you prepare? And Are you nervous? But what really sticks out in my memory is that I was asked to sing my school's fight song, On! Wisconsin.

I can't sing. There's a reason I stuck to instrumental music, and I try not to inflict pain on others by making them listen to me sing. It's pretty pathetic. And having to sing without the marching band accompanying me or without an entire stadium of Badger fans singing along? Eek. At least I knew all the words…

- You can read all about Suchita's quarter-final game on May 9!

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The Game
Posted May 9, 2008

Anxious does not even begin to describe how I felt on the first day of taping. My stomach was churning, and I felt like I had overindulged on espresso shots even though all I had drunk was…about ten bottles of water (which led to as many trips to the bathroom). Yeah, I guess you could say I was a little nervous.

I had woken up early that morning, to a foggy mist hanging over the city. Needing to calm down, I went for a long walk in the brisk April weather, finally resting at the top of Bascom Hill on the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus, looking towards the Capitol dome. Standing there in my college sweatshirt, ready to represent my school on my favorite TV show, I decided I was going to play for the fun of the game.

I was going to tune out the energized crowd filled with thousands of Badger fans rooting for me (no pressure, right?). I was going to ignore the bright lights and the cameras shoved in my face. I was going to forget about the money that was on the line. Instead, I was going to enjoy myself. I was going to play Jeopardy! the way I grew up playing it: for the challenge and with a smile.

And so we went through rehearsal with the buzzers, and I kept thinking how cool it was and how lucky I was to be there.

Though, for most of the day, our friends and family probably didn't even realize that we were there, at the Kohl Center, hiding and waiting. We contestants were not allowed to talk to the audience members or basically even acknowledge their existence. Before our turn on the stage, we were sequestered in the Green Room with some snacks, cards, and movies. It was fun, and I'm glad I wasn't in the first group of three, but after a while, I just wanted to get out of that dull white-brick-walled room.

Finally, it was my turn. I was up against Katie from Tufts and Danny from Michigan. As we walked out, the audience (which was mostly made up of Badger fans) booed Danny, the Wolverine. I wish I could have told them how he and all the other contestants were great people, individuals that I respected and loved, despite being rivals in football or hockey or whatever. That was the world of sports; this was the world of Jeopardy!, and we were all having fun regardless of who won. I know it sounds cheesy (I'm allowed to be cheesy; I'm from Wisconsin), but we were all already winners.

I thought that everything would finally sink in and I would believe that I was actually up there, competing on Jeopardy!, when I heard Johnny Gilbert read my name. Except that I never heard him say my name or really much of anything, because you couldn't hear anything over the crowd's cheers. I tried hard to read Alex's lips or anticipate what he would be saying, especially during the chat.

The game itself was a blur. It went by so quickly! Of course there were clues that I wish I would have thought about a bit more before blurting out an answer, or should have taken a second longer to enunciate my response, or probably could have made a guess and gotten it right. But it's useless to keep thinking about the past; what's done is done. I can't beat myself up over three or four clues, though I know I won't ever forget those answers again.

- Will Suchita make it to the Semis? Find out tonight!

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Continuing On
Posted May 15, 2008

When it came time to wager for Final Jeopardy! in my Quarter-Final game, my debate was whether to wager enough to beat Danny if he answered incorrectly or to stay alive as a Wild Card. I decided to play it safe and bet $2008 (my graduation year), which was thankfully enough to move me on to the Semi-Final round. I didn't find out, though, until the three of us (Danny, Katie, and I) were on stage with Alex after the show. He leaned over and told me that I had enough money to move on to the next round. It was awesome hearing my name called as a semi-finalist and having the crowd cheer me on.

I was less nervous for this semi final game, surprisingly. I think it was because I had already gone through the experience once and knew what to expect. And I was happy with how I had done.

As the other contestants and I waited in the Green Room (oh that wonderful Green Room), we bonded and told jokes and fun stories. It was so cool how we had come together as a family in less than three days! The greatest jokes were the ones that Joey was telling, about guys named Joe Bob and Bubba. Someone asked if Joey's middle name happened to be Robert, giving him the nickname Joe Bob Beachum from Mississippi State (a great fit, especially with his Southern accent). I guess it's kind of an inside joke.

By this time we were also bonding with our "bodyguard"/bathroom buddy, Graham. He escorted us from our seats to the bathroom and back and gave high-fives to the crowd on our behalf. He called us the coolest bunch of nerds he had ever met. Would that be a backhanded compliment (2 D's, 1 C)?

I was up against Joey and Vera, and surprised myself with how quick I was on the buzzer. I guess I had gotten used to it. I'm especially thankful that I did well in the category of Packers, Bucks, and Brewers. If I had not correctly answered the clues about Brett Favre, Vince Lombardi, Hank Aaron, and Prince Fielder, I think I would have been booed by the audience of Wisconsinites! And I definitely have to thank my roommates and their television show selection for me getting the Flava Flav question right. I think I played better this time around than the first one. But Joey found all three of the Daily Doubles, so it was a close game going into Final Jeopardy.

Oh, Final Jeopardy!... What can I say? It was what it was. I'm bummed that I didn't get it right, especially because I second-guessed myself.

I didn't really feel anything immediately after I lost. However, a few minutes later, as I was doing a final interview, a wave of emotion came over me. I definitely choked up a bit.

What made me really happy, though, was that the Badgers were still on my side. I came into the experience with not just the hometown support but the pressure as well. I didn't want to disappoint myself, but I was also scared of embarrassing myself in front of all of my friends and my school. I was scared of what everyone would say if/when I lost. But, as I walked with Maggie (the contestant coordinator) to dinner, we passed the Badger Band. And they all started clapping for me and telling me I had played well. I even had people ask to take a picture with me and ask for my autograph!

So no, no regrets. How could I have any when I had had such a great time!

- Read Suchita's final blog entry on May 16th!

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Posted May 16, 2008

I'm finally coming down off of my Jeopardy! high. The first week after the taping was a crazy one. In between catching up with classes, I fielded even more media requests and had random people come up to me on the street to congratulate me or tell me they were at the tapings at the Kohl Center. Not going to lie, it was all very flattering. But I'm ready to step out of the limelight and go back to normalcy

Looking back, the whole experience seems like a lifetime ago. I've forgotten a lot of what my categories were or even which ones I answered; it's definitely a blur. But what I do remember are the people. Before we left our hotel in Madison, the other contestants and I all signed each others' shirts with messages and memories from the weekend. We are definitely keeping in touch and already making plans to visit each other soon. Now only if we could corral Alex Trebek and Johnny Gilbert (and the Clue Crew…and the contestant department…and Johnny's dog…and the entire crew) into joining us!

My friends and family will never let me forget that I was "that girl" who was on Jeopardy! It's a little awkward, especially when I say something stupid (which happens quite often). Here at the University of Wisconsin – Madison we have a week before finals called the All-Campus Party. One of the events is similar to a fair, where student organizations can set up games and give out prizes. My group decided (through no encouragement from me) to have a booth entitled "Stump Suchita," handing out candy to whomever can stump me with archived Jeopardy! clues. I guess I'm never going to be able to hide from this reputation and "fame," right?

I am not yet sure what I'm going to do with my $10,000. The sensible thing would be to pay off student loans, or invest it and use it to pay for some of medical school. However, I definitely want to have some fun with it. My friends have been demanding that I throw them a party, or at least buy them dinner, so of course that's on the list. But I really want to travel. I have no idea where yet, but I know I would love to go abroad again. I've always said that my life goal is to win the lottery and travel the world, so this is a step, right?

I think my only regret from this experience is that I'm banned from Jeopardy! for life now. Having been a contestant once, I can't come back again, even on the adult show. It's a bummer, because I had such an amazing time in the College Championship. I'll have to content myself with sitting on my couch and shouting answers at the television, just like I did before I got on the show...

Suchita appeared in the following 2 archived games:
#5463, aired 2008-05-14 Joey Beachum vs. Suchita Shah vs. Vera Swain 2008 College Championship semifinal game 3. From the Kohl Center...
#5459, aired 2008-05-08 Danny Devries vs. Suchita Shah vs. Katie Winter 2008 College Championship quarterfinal game 4. From the Kohl Center...

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