Judy Liao is passionate about her area of study. Although the bookshelves in her office may not even be full yet, her obvious excitement for her new role in our social science department as assistant professor of sport studies is more than evident. Judy is not only excited to be teaching, but to be teaching here at Augustana specifically, in what she calls a very “collegial environment.” Within her short time here, Judy mentions that she’s already had the opportunity to speak to people so far outside of her own field, something “unimaginable” on larger campuses, with which she has had plenty of experience, having completed her Masters in sport sociology at UBC, and her PhD at North campus.
The interdisciplinary aspect of our campus, in regards to both friendly collegial banter and opportunities for our students within the classroom, speaks to Judy’s own research as well, which she relates as a media study of women in sport. Her dissertation focused on a number of case studies of WNBA players who are popular in the United States, although – Judy mentions as she laughs offhandedly – may not resonate all that well with Canadian audiences. You don’t have to know specific names to find Judy’s work fascinating, however, because it spans so many disciplines. Her doctoral work used theory to think about the media’s production of female moving bodies, speaking towards both sport sociology and media studies, as well as feminist studies.
Judy’s research will continue to be interdisciplinary in nature, as she looks towards a study of Ronda Rousey, who she deems “one of the very few female athletes that successfully straddles entertainment media and sports media.” Judy ultimately wants to study females who are able to breakthrough sports media into entertainment, and what makes this possible, especially for those without conventional markers of femininity. You can think of this phenomena in a similar way by recognizing how reality TV targets individuals who shouldn’t necessarily be marketable (Honey Boo Boo, anyone?) but who somehow sell. Judy is careful about how she treats these exceptions and seeks to study them in depth, rather than simply writing them off as instances of progress.
So it’s no wonder that Judy is teaching the two courses she is this semester: introduction to women’s studies, as well as sociocultural aspects of sport and physical activity. Her areas of study come through in her hobbies as well – Judy grew up swimming competitively, playing basketball and badminton, and watching tennis with her family. Born and raised in a little coastal town in Taiwan, Judy is no stranger to small town living. When she’s not teaching, Judy can be found watching TV, which she casually passes off as work because of her concentration on media studies. Judy also loves to cook and says “my life’s focus outside of the classroom is my puppy so I don’t have any habits other than her…she consumes most of my time.” When asked about advice for students, Judy kept it sweet and simple by saying “do your assignments!” speaking specifically to those enrolled in her classes no doubt. Be sure to give Judy a wave if you see her around, and ask about her research if you’re interested – she’d be more than happy to offer a cup of coffee and dive into it, and with the captivation and passion she brings forward, you won’t regret it.