The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences takes grand prize at ASU Academic Bowl

The annual trivia competition's final round took place Thursday evening at the Student Pavilion, where The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Gold team won the $25,000 scholarship prize.

The annual trivia competition's final round took place Thursday evening at the Student Pavilion, where The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Gold team won the $25,000 scholarship prize.


When Connor Vuong, a senior in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, first applied to join the ASU Academic Bowl during his freshman year, he saw it as an extension of the trivia competitions that defined his high school years in Ahwatukee.

Now in its 13th year, the event brings together teams from across ASU disciplines for a three-day trivia match with questions spanning pop culture, history, political science and more. The top four teams face off on the final day for a $24,000 grand prize, followed by second and third prizes of $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.

Vuong is slated to receive a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from The College’s School of Molecular Sciences this May. This week, as the captain of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences gold team, he competed in the Academic Bowl for a final time — and won.

“It was a lot of fun competing throughout the years at ASU, so it’s a little sad that it was my last,” he said.“ I’ve done it every year of my undergrad and been on a winning team three times, so of course it feels good to leave with one more win.”

Aligned with previous competitions, Academic Bowl participants from The College were split into “gold” and  “maroon” for the 2019 event. Vuong said it’s typical for units like The College, W. P. Carey School of Business and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering to send two teams because of their size. The three have jostled for the competition’s grand prize trophy and scholarship money over the last decade.

On The College’s winning gold team, Vuong was joined by Bryan Ugaz and Daniel Pace-Farr, both dual chemistry and biological sciences majors, Benjamin Adams, a biological sciences major, Amalie Strange, a biological sciences and Spanish dual major, and anthropology major, Gage Clow.

Vuong said The College’s ability to span disciplines bolstered teams’ competitiveness.

“I think the diversity of majors in The College definitely adds to the success of our teams because we have a deeper knowledge base to pull from,” he said. “Our teams this year were mainly biological science majors, but we also had anthropology and music majors who could fill the spaces where our abilities lacked.”  

Teams spend a few months preparing for the trivia competition with weekly meetings covering a wide range of potential questions and learning to work together as a team. Their coordination was one facet Jeffrey Banner, the assistant director of academic services at The College and one of two advisera for the teams, said was highlighted this year.

“Based on the trivia format, it can be easy for a single player to dominate things, that’s why I really enjoyed that ours was actually a team effort,” he said. “This was a showcase of some of our best students, each contributing their skills in a very substantial way.”

Banner estimates the Academic Bowl’s grand prize has gone to teams from The College around eight times since the event’s inception in 2006. He said the cross-disciplinary spirit of the unit as a whole is part of what distinguishes participants, year after year.

”Especially with the new name, we have really been identified as the academic heart of the university that touches many facets of the knowledge enterprise st ASU,” he said. “This competition is a place where the interdisciplinary knowledge cultivated at The College can really be demonstrated.”

Thursday’s final competition will air on Arizona PBS in May or early June. Date and time TBD.

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