Professor Julia Williams Competing in First ‘Jeopardy!’ Professors Tournament

Monday, November 22, 2021
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English professor Julia Williams is scheduled to appear in a first-round match December 9 in the Jeopardy! Professors Tournament. She was among 15 finalists for the show’s first tournament featuring college educators.

Teaching a variety of courses in literature, traveling the world, and earning college degrees in English and music have helped prepare English professor Julia Williams, PhD, for her appearance on the inaugural “Jeopardy!” Professors Tournament, scheduled to begin December 6.

Williams was among instructors from 15 colleges and universities across America to match wits while competing for a $100,000 grand prize and a spot in the show’s Tournament of Champions. The special tournament is hosted by Mayim Bialik.

The upcoming Jeopardy! appearance culminates a lifetime goal for Williams. Attempts to qualify online for the regular daily game show broadcasts had been unsuccessful during the past 10 years. However, her wealth of knowledge, charm and experience as a college educator were ideal for Jeopardy!’s first Professors Tournament (December 6-17). 

Williams, who has a doctorate in British Literature, has taught courses at Rose-Hulman on a variety of topics in the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts. Those areas would include first-year composition, technical communications, introduction to poetry, the Bible as literature, and literature of war, and the theater of violence. She took a group of students studying Irish theater to visit productions in Ireland and has made presentations in Japan, England and Malaysia.

“And, I once worked as a bartender and waitress. So, I’m a natural for Jeopardy!’s Potent Potables category, if it came up,” she adds. “I was really looking for categories in the game involving music, literature, and Red Sox baseball.”

Show rules prohibit Williams from sharing details about her Jeopardy! appearance before the tournament, however her appearance is scheduled to air Thursday, December 9, when she faces Ramon Guerra, an associate professor of English, literature and Latino studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and Ed Hashima, professor of history at American River College in Sacramento, California.

The daily champions from throughout the first week, along with four wild-card non-winners, will advance to the tournament’s semifinal round. 

“It was an unbelievable thrill to see so many brilliant professors from all kinds of schools and backgrounds come together on the JEOPARDY! stage,” said Bialik in a news release announcing the Professors Tournament. “There was a sense of kinship and academic camaraderie among the group, along with a healthy dose of competitiveness. That energy made this inaugural Professors Tournament incredibly special.”

Williams established Rose-Hulman’s technical communication program, integrating communication tasks across the engineering curriculum. She also developed a course in technical communication, which is now required of all majors in engineering and many areas of the sciences. 

Besides teaching, Williams also has served as executive director of the Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment, helping the institute become a national leader in assessing student educational outcomes, e-portfolios and use of educational technology. She co-founded Making Academic Change Happen annual workshops, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, that have helped higher education leaders implement new academic programs and initiatives on their campuses.

Williams has collaborated with colleagues at Rose-Hulman and at the University of Washington Center for Evaluation & Research in STEM Equity to support the work of Revolutionizing Engineering and Computer Science Departments grant recipients. In 2016, Williams was appointed Interim Dean of Cross-Cutting Programs and Emerging Opportunities but returned to the classroom in 2019. She has been recipient of numerous grants from the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network to promote entrepreneurial mindset among engineering students and faculty.

Williams has received numerous awards, including the 2015 Schlesinger Award from the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers’ Professional Communication Society and 2010 Sterling Olmsted Award from the American Society of Engineering Education’s Liberal Education Division. She also has received the Rose-Hulman Board of Trustees Outstanding Scholar Award, named an honorary alumnus by the Rose-Hulman Alumni Association, received the outstanding scholarship award from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Arts, and earned the teacher of the year award from the Rose-Hulman’s Triangle fraternity chapter.