Whenever recent grad Amar Kakirde MPP ’24 joins his Jackson School classmates for a trivia night outing, he’s not usually one of his team’s star performers. “I actually feel like I’m really bad at trivia,” admits Kakirde.

Maybe it’s humility, maybe the answers just needed to be in the form of a question — but he has now proven himself on trivia’s biggest stage.

Kakirde was a four-day champion on the quiz show institution Jeopardy!, winning a total of $56,899. He first won on May 22, winning $16,600, then repeated as champion three more times. He was defeated on the May 28 episode, incorrectly answering the Final Jeopardy question and narrowly missing qualification for the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions.

“It was just a crazy and surreal experience,” says Kakirde, who recalls watching the show often with his family growing up.

The process of becoming a Jeopardy! contestant began more than two years ago, before he matriculated at Jackson. To get on the show, contestants are first required to take an online test to prove their trivia knowledge. If they pass, they compete in a series of auditions, first as a large group and then in groups of three to imitate gameplay.

Assuming he wasn’t chosen after the auditions, Kakirde was surprised to hear back from the show in February 2024 with an offer to appear. The timing, he says, was not ideal.

Amar Kakirde sealed his first Jeopardy! win with the only correct answer in Final Jeopardy.

“It was the middle of the semester. I was really busy with schoolwork and preparing to go on a trip to Jordan for one of my classes,” Kakirde says. He knew that it could take multiple attempts to get on the show. Despite that, he made the difficult decision to decline the offer and go on the class trip.

Later in the semester, while sitting in a Yale classroom, his phone rang again. Like a seasoned game show contestant, Kakirde didn’t push his luck. He ran out of the classroom, answered, and agreed to travel to California to be on the show.

Kakirde says he didn’t practice much before competing, but his Jackson classmates had fun peppering him with trivia questions in the weeks leading up to the taping. He did, however, purchase an imitation game show buzzer to get used to ringing in to answer questions.

The show tapes multiple episodes at once, Kakirde says, and he was only at the studio for one day. In the whirlwind, he says he can’t recall much of the gameplay but that he was starstruck by host and Jeopardy! legend Ken Jennings and surprised by how intimate the show’s set was.

Now a minor celebrity, the recent Jackson graduate will spend some time traveling to Mexico and Colombia this summer before starting in a climate policy role at the New York State Department of Financial Services.