Cousins conquer WorldQuest 2021

Patrick Skinner speaking via zoom
From left: Lauren and Rebekah Baas

This year’s edition of WorldQuest, the global trivia contest offered annually by the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan was again held virtually.

On May 11, contestants competing both individually and as teams worked their way through three tough world-knowledge topics—this year covering global culinary, health, and geography questions.

As the results came in, two cousins—Rebekah Baas of Milwaukee, Wis. and Lauren Baas of Sioux Center, Iowa—finished first and second individually. That finish powered Calvin University to a first-place team finish in the 2021 team competition.

“We were contacted by our professor, Joel Westra, to see if we would be interested in participating in WorldQuest. We have always had a healthy level of competition with one another…so that healthy competition definitely transferred into this as well. In the end, Bekah beat me out… just barely,” wrote Lauren.

Wrote Rebekah: “Like Lauren mentioned, our family is quite competitive so neither of us wanted to miss an opportunity to prove our dominance! My family also loves trivia anytime. We play a lot of trivial pursuit at home and supplement the card packs with everything from Disney trivia to APUSH flashcards. I was also the nerd in school who loved standardized testing; IOWA Basics testing days were my favorite. There is something so fun about knowing that there is a right answer and trying to logically find the right one.”

It surely also helped that the Baas cousins are international relations majors at Calvin University and were just coming off projects that helped in the WorldQuest categories.

Rebekah had just completed a paper for her Spanish capstone course on culinary globalization and appropriation, and her love for cooking and baking has been informed by her global studies.

Lauren was a teacher’s assistant for a class on the history of rare diseases and pandemics at Calvin last summer, so that aided her in the second round on global health.

The Baas cousins were part of the trend this year that saw the universities move back up in the overall WorldQuest standings. Of late, the corporate teams had been at the top, with Steelcase individuals and teams taking home the honors. Prior to that, the campuses were dominant.

Calvin University was followed by Aquinas College in the team competition, with the defending champions, “Steeling Gold” of Steelcase, finishing well again at third place.

As part of WorldQuest, the Council highlights three local non-profits with whom they have partnered over the program year. Treetops Collective, LINC Up, and the Latino Business Development Center of Ferris State University were mentioned this year.

“We intend to go back to in-person WorldQuest for 2022, if everything goes well controlling COVID,” said Council executive director Michael Van Denend. “We’re grateful to the companies and the colleges that continued to compete in WorldQuest virtually and hope to see them enjoying the experience together next time around.”

Plans are for a mid-May 2022 WorldQuest reprise. Look for more information at

But competitors beware: Rebekah, though she graduates from Calvin this month, has accepted a position in the admissions office there while she works on a master’s degree at Northeastern University, so she may decide to defend her title.

Lauren also graduates, but she will be in Switzerland studying German and international relations. Will she register for WQ2022 from Switzerland? If the competition between the cousins is as intense as they say, there could be a “round two.”