An avid Jeopardy! fan since childhood, Spartan Laura Portwood-Stacer always dreamed of making an appearance on the long-running game show. Her dream came true in March 2021, as she put her knowledge in communication arts and sciences to the test.
In order to make it on the show, applicants must complete an extensive application process and pass several practice tests that typically take place in-person in California with the show’s producers. Growing up in Michigan, Portwood-Stacer had never applied to Jeopardy! because traveling to California for an audition didn’t seem feasible.
Then, after her 2004 graduation from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in telecommunication, she went on to complete a master’s degree in communication at the University of Southern California. Moving to California finally gave Portwood-Stacer the opportunity to make her Jeopardy! dreams a reality. She applied online to the show for 15 consecutive years, and in 2020, she finally got “the call."
In order to ease her pre-game nerves going into the show, Portwood-Stacer set her expectations low. “I had no expectation of winning going in,” she said. “Kind of toward the end of the game I realized ‘oh wow! I’m really far ahead!’” Leading her opponents by several thousand dollars each by the time they reached the “Final Jeopardy!” round, it made no difference that she missed the final clue – the cash she had earned from the previous two rounds was enough to make her the next Jeopardy! champion.
After her big win of $19,400 from her show debut on March 5th, 2021, she made her second Jeopardy! appearance on the following episode as returning champion. This time her “Final Jeopardy!” category was ‘Radio History’, a topic in which her three communication degrees have made her quite well-versed. She answered correctly, bringing home her second Jeopardy! title.
Portwood-Stacer’s third appearance on the show did not have the same happy ending as her first two did, but she still has a lot of be proud of. Her two-day run on the show earned her $42,601 to take home.
Now, Portwood-Stacer is currently living in Los Angeles, California working as an independent author, editor and consultant. She continues to put her degrees in communication to good use in her writing. “If you understand your audience…you will understand better how to communicate with them,” she said.
Portwood-Stacer authored her first book titled Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism as an expansion of her dissertation. Since its publication in 2013, she has gained a more thorough understanding of the publishing process from her work in academic publishing. She has even taught an online course on the subject, which inspired her to write her second book, The Book Proposal Book, to demystify the publication process. The Book Proposal Book is set for release in July 2021.
By Rachel Goodman