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UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 8 | Sep. 2, 2004

A Texan on Campus

First American recipient of International Leader of Tomorrow Award.

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 (ILOT) Award.

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 movie theatre.

“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 North.”

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 Texas weather.

“In Vancouver, I’m looking forward to starting something new, the scenery and the weather,” Wood says.

Hopefully, he packed an umbrella.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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