Return of the Nerds: How Star Wars Episode 7 Made Geeks Cool Again

Last year something wonderful happened. Something many of us had waited years to see, something many of us thought we’d never see! A new Star Wars film was released. Now, unless you’ve been living under an Alderaan shaped rock for the past few years, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released in last year following intense marketing and it received a very positive reaction from fans.

For geeks like me, it was a really exciting time. We got to enjoy a reinvented and reimagined vision, completely separate from the prequels and all the good will George Lucas managed to squander. And suddenly, being a Star Wars geek in vogue again. Everyone and their dog were going to see this flick in theaters (several going multiple times)! So, I’m going to look at some of the ways Episode 7 made geeks cool.



Anticipation is so often the weakness of geeks and nerds. It is our greatest strength, but also our greatest weakness. I think a major appeal of the Star Wars films is their story and moral message. Star Wars always sees the good in people and that's a universal thing for many of us. This is just one of the major things about the film's that increased anticipation for Episode 7. People wanted to go on a journey again. They wanted to feel attached and emotional on their journey. It’s so hard not to get excited about a Star Wars film, but, when you do, it lets you down (Episode 1). But this was different; it was a new direction with Disney helming the movies. And the anticipation, even from people who weren't necessarily fans, made geeks mainstream once again!

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The Next Generation

It might seem blasphemous to use a Star Trek reference in a Star Wars post, but bear with me, okay?! See, one of the greatest things about a new Star Wars movie is seeing how all the young kids react to it. To many of them, this is a totally new thing they are experiencing for the first time. They are the next generation of Star Wars fans, and The Force Awakens really captured their imaginations. It washed away the stale aftertaste of the prequel trilogy. And now parents and kids alike could finally attend a Star Wars movie together and have the same experience. And I think that's such a big part of the appeal of these movies.

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Expanded Universe

Star Wars has always benefited from one of the strongest expanded universes of any franchise. You can get anything you could possibly want that relates to Star Wars. And, this has only intensified since Episode 7 became a runaway success. There are table top and card games such as the X-Wing Miniatures Game. There are video games like Star Wars: Battlefront, and there are many novels and comics as well. This expanded universe has become even more mainstream since the last film. And people who may not otherwise have dipped into it are doing so.


It’s pretty clear that geeks are back in now, and Star Wars, as always, has played a huge role in this. It seems that this movie captured the hearts and minds like no other Star Wars movie has managed recently, at least at the box office. And personally, I can't wait for both Rogue One and Episode 8 to come out!

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Geeky Office Décor Series: Mauricio Gómez Montoya

This week we're featuring the awesome office of Mauricio Gómez Montoya, Retention Specialist with the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the University of Kansas.

Here's what Mauricio had to say about his space:

"I love my job. It’s challenging, rewarding and ultimately really fun. However, if I’m going to spend over 40 hours per week at work, I’m gonna make this place look and feel like home. I’m a huge Marvel & Star Wars fan, I also love sports and cultural artifacts. I’ve tried to blend these interests into the look of my office. Initially, I did this because of what I thought these items said about me. It made me feel “cool” and express my interests. I’ve noticed that the decoration of my office has inspired my students to trust me more if I put myself out there. I they feel like they really know me.

Over the last year, I’ve asked students if I should “rebrand”. I’m progressing in my career and it has made me questioning if there is room for a Tie Fighter or a Spider-Man poster in the office of a Senior Student Affairs Administrator. After many conversations with my students, I realize that there is. My students (and some colleagues) made me promise to not get rid of my “nerdy stuff” when I advance. They gave me a different perspective on the issue. It’s not what my office says about me, it’s about how students feel when they’re in it. One of my students said: "I feel intimidated when all I see are degrees and encyclopedias in my faculty’s office. But Spider-Man? I can talk about Spider-Man.”

Good practices in Student Affairs rely on relationships across campus. Relationships are based in trust. If your students (and colleagues) know you, they will trust you and if they trust you, they’ll listen to you. I’ve bonded on several occasions with students because of the conversation starters in my office. Whether it is the giant Spidey poster on the wall, the Gumball dispensing Yoda on my desk or the Jimi Hendrix portrait, students feel like they can relate and ultimately, feel more comfortable.

These conversations have lead me to think it’s time to redefine the idea of professionalism in student affairs."

What I really like about Mauricio's office is that it features Spider-Man (a personal favorite of mine), as well as the other diverse interests that he showcases in his space. I also appreciate how Mauricio shared the doubt he experienced as he thought about moving up professionally. I think we can all be our genuine selves no matter what we want to do professionally. Especially in our field, we should be encouraging professionals to be themselves so that we showcase a positive example for our students. I know it was transformative for me to accept that I can be myself and also be an effective leader and professional. It's awesomely poignant that Mauricio's students helped him realize that he should keep his geeky decorations up in his office.

Many thanks to Mauricio for sharing his space with us.

Stay tuned for more awesome offices in the coming weeks!

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Star Wars & Always Seeing the Good in People


"No. You're coming with me. I'll not leave you here, I've got to save you."

"You already... have, Luke. You were right. You were right about me. Tell your sister... you were right."

I have surprisingly not blogged a lot about Star Wars yet, even though it is one of my major fandoms. I've loved it for a long time now and I am cautiously optimistic about Episode VII that is due to come out next year.

A major arc of the Star Wars films is Anakin's journey toward the dark side and coming back to the light in the end to save the day and rescue his son, Luke, from the Emperor. Luke, after discovering that Darth Vader is actually his father, Anakin, can't bring himself to simply kill his father for the good of the galaxy. He knows Anakin is a good person who did bad things, not just simply an evil person who must die without any chance for redemption. Others see Luke as foolish for believing he can save his father, who others see as too far gone. Luke commits to his stance to save his father AND the galaxy, not willing to give up simply from the pressure of others. In the end, he is able to accomplish his goal and give Anakin a brief moment in the light before he dies from his injuries inflicted from his rescue of Luke.


If you've seen Return of the Jedi, you know the whole sequence I'm talking about and if you've seen the whole saga of films, you know Anakin's arc from the six films. While there is a lot of valid gripes folks have with the two trilogies (myself included), the thing I love about the story is Anakin's character arc, going from a wide-eyed kid on Tatooine, to Jedi Knight and hero of the Clone Wars to a broken man (literally and figuratively) and back to his good natured self that has always been there deep inside.

A major takeaway here that I really appreciate is not giving up on people. People make bad choices, we all do, but that doesn't mean they're bad people. People make choices based on their past, what they're feeling now, and what they want for the future. All of this is subject to flux based on who they surround themselves with, their environments, and who may not be around them to help them make positive choices. I'm a empathetic person, and I always see things from others' perspectives. It can be a gift and a curse, but I would never want to not feel anything for others when they're suffering, confused, lost, or misunderstood. Working in student affairs, and especially in residence life, I see this a lot. I can't ever assume everyone is hiding something, has ulterior motives, or is doing this to hurt me personally. I prefer to stay positive, give people chances, and trust people until they give me a reason not to.

This lesson from Star Wars is a big one, I feel, in my ongoing effort to reach zen status (or perhaps Jedi Mastery?!). I don't ever want to be someone who is just mad at the world and thinks everyone is evil, selfish, and immoral. I think when people are given the opportunity to do what's right, they'll do it. We just have to trust each other, love unconditionally, and put good energy out into the universe. Maybe then we'll be able to work together to build a more decent, good, and just galaxy here and far, far away.


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