Indiana University Bloomington

IU student to appear on 'Wheel of Fortune' as part of 'College Week'

  • March 31, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An Indiana University honors student fulfilled a lifelong dream of appearing on the iconic television game show "Wheel of Fortune."

Julian Batts, a Hudson and Holland Scholar, a Herbert Presidential Scholar and a Hutton Honors College student from Indianapolis, will appear on the show Friday, April 11, as part of its annual "College Week."

"I've watched it as long as I can remember," he said of the game show, which has been on the air for more than 30 years. "I have always had that desire to be on the show and solve puzzles in front of a live audience."

Batts traveled to Culver City, Calif., and taped the episode in February. Students from Indiana State and Purdue universities also were selected to participate in "College Week" matches.

The Carmel High School graduate is majoring in business and Spanish. He is actively involved at Rose Avenue Residence Hall and as an usher at the IU Auditorium. He participated in IU's Intensive Freshman Seminar program and the IU Beginnings program, which introduces a small group of students to recruiters from top companies that partner with the Kelley School of Business.

He also is the third generation of his family to attend IU, and both of his parents earned IU degrees.

"This was an opportunity of a lifetime for Julian, and we’re happy that he has had this experience to add to the many wonderful experiences he’s enjoyed as an IU student," said James Wimbush, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and dean of the University Graduate School.

Over the past several years, Batts has applied many times online to be a contestant on the show, and he was accepted to attend an audition after applying as a college student.

"At the audition, they had us solve puzzles and practice enunciating our words and calling out logical letters. They were looking for people who were enthusiastic and energetic to be on the show," Batts said.

"It was an experience just to audition for the show," he said.

While Batts plays along with the contestants when he watches "Wheel of Fortune" daily from home, he said there was little else he could do to prepare to be on the show.

"Wheel of Fortune" taped six episodes on the day that Batts competed. Contestants were asked to arrive early at Sony Pictures Studios, at 7:15 a.m. Producers spent the morning getting contestants comfortable with the setting, rules and obligations, and matches began after lunch. Batts then had to wait a few hours until his match began later in the afternoon.

He said contestants got to know each other throughout the process and watched as other shows were taped.

"We definitely got to know each other," Batts said. "I was the only freshman there. I got to hear a lot about the secondary years that I'm going to be experiencing. We watched our friends; we sat there in the audience and rooted them on."

After having watched "Wheel of Fortune" hundreds of times from home on television, Batts said it was "surreal" to be on the set, with cameras rolling while Pat Sajak and Vanna White came out to start the show.

"It was so exciting and energy-filled to be standing on the contestant platform, knowing that it would be over before I knew it," he said.

The taping of each episode lasts about the same length as the 30-minute show viewers see on TV.

On April 11, he looks forward to getting together with friends so they can see how well he did.

"Regardless of whatever is aired on TV, I am glad I did it. I wouldn't trade it for the world. It was an experience I will never forget," he said.

A viewing party for Batts will begin at 6:45 p.m. in Room 150 of the Student Building on the IU Bloomington campus.

"Wheel of Fortune" airs at 7 p.m. on WTHR-13 in Indianapolis, on WTWO-2 in Terre Haute, Ind., on WLKY-32 in Louisville, Ky., and on WSBT-22 in South Bend. 

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George Vlahakis

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