Benjamin Woo Receives Governor General's Gold Medal

May 27, 2013

In his dissertation, Dr. Benjamin Woo says that his research topic started with a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) belt buckle. He'd worn it to a comic book convention, and then received just as many compliments on it outside the event, from "mundanes."

In his exceptionally well-written, academically rigorous, wide-ranging — and witty — thesis, Nerds!: Cultural practices and community-making in a subcultural scene, Dr. Woo examined the transformation of nerds from derisive targets ("move out of your mother's basement!") to lords of popular culture (the top grossing movies last year were based on the Avengers and Batman comic books and The Hobbit). By speaking with "nerds" from several local fandoms, he explores nerd culture while braiding in sophisticated concepts of social identity, community building, creative practices and economic analyses of media industries.

Dr. Gary McCarron, his supervisor, comments, "Ben's thesis is the best-written dissertation I have seen — each member of Dr. Woo's examining committee commented on the pleasure they derived from reading the work."

Over the course of his academic career, Dr. Woo built a remarkable record of academic publications, including five sole-authored journal articles, two book chapters and thirteen conference presentations, with several others currently under review. He also received MA and PhD awards from SSHRC to fund his work, and achieved a remarkable 4.22 GPA.

His work wasn't entirely academic: He also organized several conference sessions, taught many courses as a TA and a sessional, and served his department in multiple ways, from organizing professional development workshops to convening a dissertation support group to  chairing the Communication graduate caucus, amongst many other community contributions.

Dr. Woo says, "Since graduating with my PhD in October, I've been continuing to publish and present findings from my research. I recently received the John A. Lent Scholarship in Comics Studies and gave the Lent lecture at this year's International Comic Arts Forum conference.  Beginning this summer, I will be doing a SSHRC-funded postdoc in the Department of English at the University of Calgary, working with Dr. Bart Beaty, who was external examiner at my dissertation defence. My project will examine creative workers in the comic-book industry."

On behalf of SFU, we congratulate Dr. Woo on his outstanding achievements which are being recognized by the award of the Governor General's Gold Medal as SFU's most outstanding graduate student graduating in the Fine Arts/Humanities/Social Sciences.

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