Academic WorldQuest competes at SLU, gives students chance to show off global knowledge

Seven St. Louis U. High seniors traveled to the campus of Saint Louis University after school last Wednesday to participate in the Academic WorldQuest competition, held by the World Affairs Council of St. Louis. 

Since its introduction in 2020 by then-AP Comparative Government teacher Sarah Becvar, Academic WorldQuest has provided Jr. Bills with interests in current events, international relations, and geography to showcase their skills in a formal competition. The WorldQuest is attended by a dozen schools across Missouri and Illinois, each grouping in teams of four. The top-placing team of four from the St. Louis competition qualifies for the national contest in Washington, D.C. and receives a cash prize of $1000.

Each year, teams focus on eight rotating categories, which are generally focused on global issues such as climate change, international conflict, and economic challenges; this year, some categories included Economic Sanctions, Battle of the Century: Autocracy v. Democracy, and The Arctic Council. Teams are given a study guide of news articles and background information weeks in advance to prepare for the contest. Eighty questions—10 per round—are asked over the course of the night, each containing information from the study guide.

In past years, SLUH teams had seen success in WorldQuest, winning the St. Louis competition in both 2020 and 2021. Unfortunately, neither of those winning teams could take full advantage of the D.C. trip, as the pandemic prevented an in-person national finals from happening in both years. The 2020 national competition was canceled, while the 2021 event was moved to a virtual setting. In its only appearance in the national competition, that 2021 SLUH team placed tenth in the country, setting an undoubtedly high bar for future teams.

This year, however, marked a few distinct changes for SLUH’s Academic WorldQuest program. This year was the first since Covid that the competition was held at St. Louis University. Over the past years, the competition was held remotely, through kahoot style question and answer. Becvar left SLUH at the end of last school year in order to take an administrative position at Vianney, leaving the job of WorldQuest moderator up for the taking. Fortunately, economics teacher Rob Hill—who helped Becvar with WorldQuest last year—chose to step in and run the program this year, ensuring that the Class of 2023 could showcase its current events chops. 

In early February, Hill organized a group of eight seniors, split into two teams, largely recruiting from social studies teacher Tom Zinselmeyer’s AP Comparative Government class. A few meetings were held, but participants were largely responsible for studying on their own in preparation for the competition. 

After weeks of studying, both SLUH teams made their way to SLU’s Busch Student Center on March 1, where they finally had the chance to compete with other area schools. After four rounds of questioning, SLUH 2—comprised of seniors Alex Brinkman, Chandler Brozovich, Jackson Cooper, and Ben Croat—sat in fourth place, while SLUH 1—made up of seniors Alex Deiters, Nick George, and Connor Higano—were just behind, in a tie for fifth place.

Though the questions were very difficult and nuanced at times, both SLUH 1 and SLUH 2 had fun with the situation. 

“It was definitely a pretty low-stress thing,” said George. “Like, it was a big deal, just trivia where you work with the people at your table. It was a fun experience.”

At the end of the night, SLUH 1 rose to fourth place, answering 48 of 80 questions correctly, while SLUH 2 finished in fifth, with 43 correct. SLUH 1’s success was of particular note, as they achieved their high position while down a man, as fourth team member John Martin missed the competition with an illness. 

Though neither team qualified for the national competition in Washington, team members still viewed the night as a success, and recommended the experience to any interested young students.

“For future guys, just know that, if we’re talking about general SLUH students and people who are interested in this type of thing, you can 100 percent win this,” said Deiters. “It is competitive, but if we had all been able to show up, it’s not out of the question that we could’ve gone to D.C.”

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