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Hofstra faculty member Lisa Dresner competes in new 'Jeopardy!' Professors Tournament

Hofstra faculty member Lisa Dresner is competing on

Hofstra faculty member Lisa Dresner is competing on the Professors Tournament on "Jeopardy!" Credit: Sony Pictures Television/Casey Durkin

Lisa Dresner, a faculty member of Hempstead's Hofstra University, competes Wednesday evening in the inaugural Professors Tournament on "Jeopardy!" (7 p.m., WABC/7). She is one of 15 contenders from colleges and universities nationwide in the two-week tourney, which began Monday. The contestants are vying for a $100,000 prize and a spot in the syndicated quiz show's upcoming Tournament of Champions.

"I've been trying out for 'Jeopardy!' since the late 1990s," Dresner, 54, told Newsday by phone from her home in Forest Hills, Queens. "Every so often I would take the test and occasionally I would get lucky and get an audition, and this last time worked."

The difference this time, she believes, is that "I thought about not only doing well on the test, but also being somebody who would be fun to have on TV. I tend to have a lively, energetic personality anyway, in some contexts, and I did try to play up that part of my personality for the audition."

Born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, the daughter of a physicist father at RCA Laboratories there and a homemaker mother, Dresner is an associate professor of writing studies, teaching "different types of nonfiction writing and also meta-considerations about the process of writing." She began teaching at Hofstra in 2004, and after a brief stint at Boston University, returned there for good in 2006, the same year her book "The Female Investigator in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture" was published. Before moving to Forest Hills, she lived in Floral Park and Hempstead.

Dresner prepared for her taping, held during the final week of October at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California, by watching episodes and practicing with a homemade clicker. "Timing is really important, she says. "I just clicked a ballpoint pen, trying to time my click to when the question was actually fully read, instead of clicking too early" and being penalized.

Her fellow contestants Wednesday are Ashleigh Lawrence-Sanders, an assistant professor of U.S. and African American history at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and Sam Buttrey, an associate professor of operations research at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. By coincidence, Dresner says, Buttrey backstage had "mentioned his last name and I asked if he was related to an old college professor of mine. And that was his father."

Whatever her fortunes on "Jeopardy!," Dresner calls Hofstra "my home. I have wonderful colleagues and we have wonderful staff and students. Having lived all over the country and having grown up in New Jersey, I feel very comfortable on Long Island," she says. "I find Long Island a very friendly place to be."

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