“I’m sorry to tell you, you have been eliminated from The Amazing Race.”
These words were directed at Susan Vaughn, director of ethics and student conflict resolutions as a contestant on The Amazing Race in 2006. Although she did not win the one million dollars, she won other kinds of personal rewards for running with her son in The Amazing Race, Seventh Edition.
Vaughn and her son, Patrick, couldn’t tell anyone where they were going or what they were doing for the seven weeks they were on the show. Vaughn took a leave of absence from work but could not tell anyone why besides to spend time with her son.
“My secretary was extremely worried about me,” Vaughn said. “We’ve worked together for a long time and when I came back, I was thinner from the strange eating and sleeping habits on the show. Finally, I had to tell her what was going on so she wouldn’t worry.”
Between filming and the premiere of the show, Vaughn still could not tell anyone anything about it.
“My daughter didn’t even know I applied until the final part of auditions,” she said.
While on the show, Vaughn’s husband would only receive phone calls once a week to say Vaughn and Patrick were okay, but gave no knowledge of their whereabouts or if they had been eliminated from the show.
“We were obligated for seven weeks,” Vaughn said. “So after we got eliminated after four legs outside of Buenos Aires, we were put into sequester for the remainder of the filming. We were flown to a destination and had aliases. It was all very secretive.”
But for Vaughn it was worth it.
“We certainly didn’t win a million dollars. But Patrick and I had a great time together. We’ve always loved to travel and he and I are pretty competitive so that played into our interest with the show,” she said.
In order to be contestants on the show, Vaughn and Patrick had to submit a 20-page application and have interviews. Out of 24,000 applicants, only 11 teams are chosen for the show, according to Vaughn.
“There had never been a mother/son team before, and this part of the country was very popular with the show and hadn’t had contestants before either,” Vaughn said.
While on the show, Vaughn had the opportunity to face her fear of heights.
“One of your first challenges was to zip line over a 1,400 foot gorge from mountain to mountain, it was frightening,” Vaughn said.
Since then, she’s gone zip lining at smaller heights but still said she would not have done it before the show. “It’s very mentally challenging to be able to manage throughout the show,” she said. “I’m not someone who travels with a backpack so for me to put my life in a backpack was quite funny.”
To her son’s disapproval, Vaughn packed a hair dryer, curling iron and make up.
“I took much more than I should’ve,” Vaughn said. “My pack weighed 26 pounds, way over what it was meant to hold.”
Vaughn said she didn’t really expect the impact the show would have.
“Overall, it was a once in a lifetime experience. Going into it I thought ‘this’ll be funny, my friends will laugh.’ I didn’t expect the popularity of the show and how my life changed after the show,” she said.
Vaughn’s life after the show was filled with interviews, media and speaking events.
“Where most people’s middle age means going downhill, mine skyrocketed. I gained a personal reward of doing something at that part of my life,” Vaughn said. “My life didn’t get back to normal until after a year.”
As a graduate of Miami and administrator for 25 years, Vaughn made the list of top 20 most famous alumni after her appearance on the show.
“Having a faculty member on an international TV show puts Miami on the map, the map of legends,” said first-year Justin Chu.
“It’s good for Miami’s popularity,” said first-year Josh Midgley. “And can help bring more attention here.”
Vaughn is happy with the publicity she was able to bring to her alma mater.
“We didn’t go into this to win $1 million,” Vaughn said. “I was one of those 11 teams and only a limited number of people get the chance.”