Stevens alumnus Pete Yurkowski has a chance to win $1 million, and you can watch him do it. The Class of 2011 graduate is a contestant on the 25th season of Survivor, the hit reality television game show from CBS. The upcoming season, Survivor: Philippines, premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 19.
An Engineering Management major from Holmdel, N.J., Yurkowski spent his post-Stevens year taking acting, art and imaging classes and developing a modeling portfolio. When his mother insisted it was time to find a steady job, Yurkowski answered a Survivor casting call he saw online.
“It definitely wasn’t what my mom had in mind, but I wasn’t ready to sit behind a desk just yet,” Yurkowski said.
Although Yurkowski doesn’t have any tangible survival skills or experience, he was briefly a Boy Scout, and he knows how to hunt and work with fire, thanks to spending part of his childhood in upstate New York.
“I’m definitely not a stranger to nature,” he said.
To prepare for the show, Yurkowski said he, “ate everything I could find and went to the gym for three hours every day.” He gained 20 pounds of muscle and fat before filming started, knowing he’d probably lose it all if he lasted in the game for long enough.
“I wasn’t going there to look pretty; I was going there to win,” he said.
In Yurkowski’s cast interview video on the Survivor web site, he said people often don’t believe him when he tells them he is an engineer, but his education and intelligence would take him far in the game.
In particular, he said some of his Engineering Management courses at Stevens taught him how to successfully pitch an idea, even if the idea wasn’t always the best.
“Persuasive communication is a big thing I learned at Stevens that is critical on Survivor,” he said.
Yurkowski’s plan for winning Survivor was to adapt at every second of the game, knowing the downfall of many contestants is locking into one strategy too early.
He intended to be a “social chameleon,” using the many diverse aspects of his personality to his advantage. He characterized himself as equal parts: hardcore gamer (he'd love a career in the video gaming industry); jock (he enjoys snowboarding, skydiving and anything “fast and dangerous where you could probably kill yourself”); and frat boy (at Stevens, he was a brother of Beta Theta Pi).
“My smile, my personality, and the fact that I can get people to do what I tell them to do is what is going to win me the $1 million,” he said in the cast interview video.
On the show, Yurkowski is a member of the Tandang tribe. The cast of 18 includes Lisa Whelchel, a former teen star from "The Facts of Life," Jeff Kent, a retired Major League Baseball player, and three returning Survivor castaways who were removed from their previous seasons due to illness or injury.
Watch Yurkowski compete to be the last man standing on Survivor: Philippines, airing each Wednesday this fall starting Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.
-- photo courtesy of ©2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc.