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Graduate Student Bill Cossen: Jeopardy Champ!

Graduate Student Bill Cossen: Jeopardy Champ!

Bill Cossen is known around the Penn State History department as a hard-working, likeable guy who focusses on American Catholic history. But this past summer, he took time off to do something a little different: compete on America’s Favorite Quiz Show, Jeopardy!

Bill had a great run, winning three nights in a row for a total of four appearances. His television demeanor, relaxed and focused under pressure, is something that seems to come naturally. “Bill Cossen is close to unflappable,” said Amy Greenberg, Edwin Erle Sparks professor of History and Women’s Studies and Bill’s advisor. “I'm not surprised by his performance: he knows an awful lot about a great number of topics, and gives the impression of being exactly where he wants to be,” she added.

In five years at Penn State, Bill has set a high standard for himself, having already published two articles in peer-reviewed journals and serving as editorial assistant for the Journal of the Civil War Era. He has also undertaken significant archival research in preparation for his dissertation, and has a family as well. Bill and his wife Kristina, a third-year pediatric resident at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, are expecting their first child any day now.

“Bill is an exemplary student in every way,” said Michael Kulikowski, Professor and Head of Penn State’s History department, adding, ”while we don’t expect all our students to be Jeopardy! champions, I’m not at all surprised that Bill did so well; we are very proud of him.”

Reflecting on his experience, Bill sees a connection between his graduate work and his appearance on a game show:  “On one level, my three years of course work and four summers of research gave me an advantage when facing categories dealing with history and religion.  But on a deeper level, the department and its professors have consistently encouraged students to pursue reading and study in fields outside of the more narrow boundaries of our research.  This spirit of deep inquiry in a broad range of subjects has served me well in both my academic work and on Jeopardy!”

We couldn’t have said it any better – warm congratulations, Bill!

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