UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 8 | Sep.
A Texan on Campus
First American recipient of International Leader of Tomorrow
BY Michelle Cook
As an American tourist visiting Canada, just one day in Vancouver
was enough to convince Jason Wood that it might be a nice
place to live. The teen from Texas liked the look of the city.
Back in his hometown of San Angelo, a west Texas community
of 90,000 people deep in the heart of oil and ranch country,
Wood started doing some research and liked what he found out.
Vancouver’s film industry appealed to the avid movie
buff and UBC had an award program for international students
that could help him study in the city he had found so picturesque.
Four years later, Wood, 18, is back in Vancouver as the
first American recipient of an International Leader of Tomorrow
Wood is one of 12 students worldwide to receive an ILOT
award to study at UBC this year. The awards -- each worth
about $23,000 annually and renewable for up to three years
-- help outstanding international students who couldn’t
otherwise afford post-secondary education. The awards program
is the largest of its kind at a Canadian university. It is
funded by UBC’s International Student Initiative (ISI)
which was launched in 1996 to increase the number of international
students on campus from a range of countries.
UBC has been offering ILOT awards since 2001 to help attract
some of the world’s brightest young minds to campus.
Since then, 39 students from 29 countries have benefited from
the program. This year, more than 145 applications were considered.
Wood, who will study commerce at the Sauder School of Business,
doesn’t seem fazed by the fact that he’s the first
U.S. student to receive the award. After all, he’s worked
hard to get here.
Karen McKellin is the associate director of ISI and a member
of the ILOT awards committee who chose Wood. She says he was
selected because of his high academic grades, his extracurricular
activities which included working as the editor of his high
school newspaper and co-editor of his school’s yearbook,
and his clear but unusual professional goals.
“Jason is completely interested in a career in the
movie business and has made consistent choices to support
that,” McKellin says. “The feeling of the committee
was that this was a very deserving young man from an economically
disadvantaged background who worked after school at his local
“He’s combined his love of film with a profound
interest in learning the business of films -- how to promote
them, how they get to be blockbusters -- and he’d done
his research to see that we had a movie industry here in Hollywood
Wood, whose own movie preferences range from indie films
to “popcorn” blockbusters, says he considered
going to NYU or UCLA -- schools in the world’s top two
movie production centres. In the end, he opted for Vancouver.
He hopes to complement his commerce courses with electives
in film studies and Chinese (when he was in high school, Wood
spent a month in China with his grandmother who was teaching
English there). While in Vancouver, he’s also looking
forward to experiencing different cultures, checking out places
like Chinatown, and learning to kayak.
Wood is one of only a few of his classmates to leave Texas
for post-secondary education, and the only person out of his
graduating class of 770 to choose to study in Canada.
“Most people from San Angelo stay in Texas and most
go to Texas schools,” he explains. “My grandparents
wanted me to stay in Texas, but my mom and stepdad have been
supportive. San Angelo is not a place with lots of opportunities
for younger people, so they’re all excited for me. For
my birthday, my grandmother even ordered stuff online from
the UBC bookstore.”
Wood says he’s never been away from his family for
any great length of time and he’ll miss them and his
friends -- but one thing he won’t miss is the hot, dry
“In Vancouver, I’m looking forward to starting
something new, the scenery and the weather,” Wood says.
Hopefully, he packed an umbrella.