MSU Alumna Robin Miner-Swartz, “Jeopardy!” Contestant and Business Owner, Wins Big and Reflects on the ComArtSci Experience that Gave her the Answers
Robin Miner-Swartz has been a trivia buff her entire life. The ComArtSci ‘93 alumna proved this in December during her two-win run on the popular game show “Jeopardy!”
Miner-Swartz took a liking to trivia at the ripe age of 4 and set about training to compete on the “Jeopardy!” show as her mother did. Knowing miscellaneous facts isn’t her only strength, however. Miner-Swartz is a prominent player in the communications realm as well, and now, the owner and founder of Miner-Swartz Editing and Publishing.
For Miner-Swartz, trivia runs in the family. Her mother, Carol Welch, a fellow trivia buff and MSU alumna, received a telegram to compete on “Jeopardy!” herself while in labor with Miner-Swartz. Miner-Swartz followed suit in her love of learning and trivia. Miner-Swartz’s mother took her, at age 4, to a bar hosting their weekly trivia night, where patrons were invited to shout out the answers to win wooden nickels good for 5 cents off their drinks. The young East Lansing native participated and succeeded in answering a question. From then on, Miner-Swartz immersed herself in trivia.
Securing a Spot on the Set
Miner-Swartz’s career has encompassed a multitude of different duties and jobs, but from an early age, she considered herself a journalist. This interest began at age 11, after a film she had seen and enjoyed won Best Picture in the Academy Awards. This led her to movie criticism, which further led her to explore journalism in her everyday life.
“My eighth-grade class didn’t have a newspaper—because why would they—but I started a paper for my class. I just wanted a place to be able to write about what I thought of movies. It really grew out of that,” said Miner-Swartz, referring to her passion for obscure facts. “Movies and Broadway musicals are the biggest sources of information that I have. ‘Hamilton’ is such a great example of that. The show packs in so much information about that era, and it translates into being able to answer trivia questions.”
Growing up in East Lansing, Miner-Swartz felt an early connection to both MSU and ComArtSci. Her mother worked at the WKAR station, and Miner-Swartz accompanied her to the studio frequently, learning the ropes and adjusting to the TV set environment. By 16, she was volunteering for the WKAR-TV Auction, training local business leaders who came in to serve as auctioneers for the fundraiser.
Through that experience, Miner-Swartz built a network of prominent names and top companies throughout the community, an occurrence that may be unusual for someone so young. She went on to study in the MSU School of Journalism and began freelancing for the Lansing State Journal while she was still a student. She credits WKAR for giving her the opportunity to work alongside professionals who excelled at producing television and radio broadcasts. The experience gave her a level of comfort in the studio that she considers to be “absolutely priceless.”
Miner-Swartz, center, pictured with wife Betsy Miner-Swartz, left, and mother Carol Welch, right, outside the “Jeopardy!” studios.
When the Clue Translates to Career Reinvention
During and after her time at ComArtSci, Miner-Swartz officially launched herself into journalism through the Lansing State Journal. For 17 years, she took on different titles and duties to strengthen her skills as a professional. The newspaper allowed her to fulfill her dream of writing movie and restaurant criticism, but a change in 2008 caused a massive shift in Miner-Swartz’s career path.
Massive layoffs saw many of her close friends and mentors lose their careers. With the pressure to stand out and expand her capacity as a journalist, Miner-Swartz looked to MSU and her network for help. The MSU alumni office helped her redefine and reinvent herself as an accomplished professional.
“I worked very closely with that office trying to reinvent myself. That was when I learned how to talk about myself as something other than a journalist for the first time since I was 11. So it was a huge help having that MSU alumni network available and be so supportive in helping me figure out what was next,” said Miner-Swartz.
For Miner-Swartz, her professional life and her trivia pursuit went hand in hand. The skills she learned as a journalist allowed her to soak up the facts she needed to dominate the “Jeopardy!” board. Having trained for this moment her entire life, the now-established professional felt no nerves going into the “Jeopardy!” studio. She credits ComArtSci and WKAR for her level head and cool composure in front of the cameras.
“I walked into that studio and felt at home. There were so many people thrown by being in a television studio,” said Miner-Swartz. “It can pull you out of the moment and give you something to worry about, but I came ready to play.”
Miner-Swartz answered a question about fellow Spartan Draymond Green during her first “Jeopardy!” game.
What is Spartans Will?
After spending years maneuvering through the journalism and communications front, Miner-Swartz said the most important lesson she had to learn was flexibility.
While she’s usually one to go by the books and adhere to the rules, Miner-Swartz learned that the job market is ever-changing, and it forces people to adapt to new concepts. This, in turn, led Miner-Swartz to take chances and trust her instincts.
For students looking to jump into the communications field, the newsroom or the recording studio, Miner-Swartz suggests keeping strong ties with an alumni network. While she didn’t fully appreciate or understand the importance of these connections at first, she now values them dearly.
Miner-Swartz now runs her own company, Miner-Swartz Editing and Publishing, where she writes content for nonprofits and other organizations. She also oversees the publication of an alumni magazine, as managing editor of Centralight for Central Michigan University.
“I get to bounce around and do what I love most in the space I love to be in: this community,” said Miner-Swartz.
By John Castro