Written by: 
Erin Cristales
B

ack in 1951, Newsweek deployed the first known published use of the word “nerd.” It wasn’t particularly flattering — the magazine’s article declared, “In Detroit, someone who once would be called a drip or a square is now, regrettably, a nerd.” But in the words of Bob Dylan, a man who has long embodied the artful sangfroid of true nerduosity, the times, they are a changin’. The term has evolved into something that, to most at least, celebrates a thirst for knowledge, an equally unquenchable desire to share it, and little to no concern for any perceived disdain regarding those tendencies. Unconvinced? Just take a gander at Urban Dictionary’s entry for the word:

If you are reading this article to determine whether you are a nerd or not, you are not. Nerds do not need to look up the definition of nerd, it is a label with no consequence whatsoever, and nerds have better things to do than play along with societal stereotypes. That being said, if you merely want to see what people think of when they think of the word nerd, because human thought processes, societal constructs and philosophy are so interesting, consider yourself a nerd.

Universities are well-known nerd breeding grounds and, thankfully, UNT is no exception. We’ve seen nerds of every conceivable interest pass through our hallowed halls, and now they’re out in the world proclaiming their unabashed nerdiness for everyone to see — in this case, via their Linkedin descriptions. Below, you’ll hear from alums who self-describe on that social network as nerds, and who believe that the world could definitely use more people who, like them, are all too happy to share their obsessions.

Stephanie Totty, a self-described
Totty also loves "Harry Potter," "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and major league baseball.

Stephanie Totty (’05)

B.F.A., art history

Current job: Director of marketing strategy, Uberflip

Linkedin description: Lover of content, digital marketing nerd, customer journey advocate, Harry Potter/MLB fangirl

Fun fact: Totty is a self-described “military brat.”

 

What does the term ‘nerd’ mean to you?

I feel like “nerd” is equivalent to anybody who enjoys learning, who really digs into a topic in a granular way, whether you’re crunching numbers from your last digital marketing campaign or memorizing the Cubs’ batting averages over the past 20 years. That’s what I consider a nerd: someone who really studies and engages in a topic and is proactively taking steps to learn something.

Why do you describe yourself as a digital marketing nerd?

In my previous role, I worked for a Software as a Service (SaaS) company that provided assessment software for higher education to deliver secure exams and also offered reporting capabilities on the back end for faculty and administration. So you’re dealing with a lot of academics, a lot of folks who are very learned, and of course, a lot of nerdy individuals. There’s a lot of data analytics and number crunching going on, a lot of people who are super into spreadsheets and pivot tables and all things nerdy. I worked there for six years, and it became the mantra of everyone who worked there that we’re all nerds in some way. I’m a marketing nerd — I view my marketing strategies as being very data-driven, so I like to crunch the numbers and see what’s working and have those analytics to back up whatever my next strategy is going to be. I also just love learning about new tactics in general. So that’s my nerdism. Or one of them, at least. I have many.

What is the nerdiest thing you’ve ever done?

I sat through all three extended versions of The Lord of the Rings when The Return of the King came out. I took my oldest son to a Harry Potter convention last year. In terms of marketing nerdery, I did a content audit a couple of years ago that involved over 1,200 pieces of different content, and created the most amazing spreadsheet ever. I spent a long time working on it, and at the end, it was absolutely beautiful.

Are there pop culture things you are particularly nerdy about?

Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter. I’m also very into the Texas Rangers and just baseball in general. Those are the things I geek out about, on top of marketing strategy.

Do you have a favorite nerd?

JK Rowling. If I could sit down and have a meal with anyone in this world, it would be her for sure. She came up with a story that resonated with so many different types of people. I very much admire her storytelling capabilities and her writing style — you can tell she got better as the books went on. She wasn’t the first person to write these types of books, but she certainly was the first author in our generation that kicked off this whole young adult sci-fi fantasy genre and made it as successful as it has been over the past 20-odd years.

Why does the world need more nerds?

Nerds are passionate people who want to learn more. The world always needs more learners — folks who believe in something and are passionate about what they’re focused on. I don’t think you can ever get too much of that.

JUST PRESS PLAY: Is there a pop culture offering — book, movie, album, TV show, podcast, etc. — that you have considered life-changing?

Andrew Stanton was one of the original writers for Pixar — he helped write Toy Story and Wall-E. He has a TED Talk where he talks about storytelling and how there has to be a personal connection: People have to feel things in order to take action and to really get engaged. I’ve seen him give his talk in person, and it just so resonated with me and has been so impactful and influential in how I write and view the process of writing from a marketing standpoint. So I would encourage anyone who is writing — whether it’s journalism or writing a book or marketing or copywriting, whatever — to check it out.

 

Lisa Hamilton is a self-described
Hamilton also nerds out about fitness, including Orangetheory, as well as the fashion service Stitch Fix.

Lisa Hamilton

Studied business computer information systems from 1989 to 1990

Current job: Product content manager, Thomson Reuters

Linkedin description: Content nerd and chief cat herder

Fun fact: Hamilton grew up on a pig farm in Northwest Iowa.

 

What does the term ‘nerd’ mean to you?

I feel like I’m ridiculous. I can see how people must perceive me, and I agree with them — that I’m seriously over-the-top about content. It’s just being over-the-top or zealous about a topic, like when someone mentions something and you can just ramble on about it for hours.

Why do you describe yourself as a content nerd?

I’ve always had writing skills. As a kid, I would win a lot of the small-town essay contests. So it’s always been some innate skill that I’ve had, some intrinsic sort of thing. I started working in computer sales, and they asked if I would train the new salespeople, and I said “Sure.” I started writing my own training materials. And that’s what led me down this whole path. I became the de facto content person for the computer company and turned that into an official technical writing role. When I landed a contract as a technical editor with Microsoft and started working with a Microsoft professional publishing team, I realized how much I love to do this. I was editing writers who are just amazing at what they do — I was honored to edit their work. It’s so smooth; they’re explaining technical things, but they’re doing it in a way that’s conversational, and I was so impressed by that. They inspired me to invest myself further in what I do.

What is the nerdiest thing you’ve ever done?

I ordered a bikini from Athleta, and they only sent me the top, not the bottoms. They said, “You just ordered the top,” and I said, “No — the image showed two pieces, and it said bikini,” and they said, “That’s how we advertise all of our swimwear separates.” But it didn’t say that anywhere on the site. Still, they would not budge. I went back and forth with their customer support and told them, “That’s fraud — your content experience is bad, it’s misleading.” I had free legal service because I was working for Thomson Reuters legal, so I had a demand letter written for this.

I mean, I knew it was super nerdy — even the lawyer kind of laughed about it. But I took this all the way. They didn’t get back to me for two weeks, so I got impatient and found a way to reach their press rep and wrote to her. I got a phone call the next day from that department, and I explained to her that I’m a content professional and how it was a bad content experience and it created a bad customer experience. She agreed and said she would send me the bottoms for free. A few days later, I got the package, and it was the bottoms — and also $500 worth of clothing, along with a handwritten apology. And two weeks later, their website was changed. They now say “bikini top,” and it didn’t say that before. So Athleta changed their website because of my content nerdiness.

Are there pop culture things you are particularly nerdy about?

Not really pop culture. I nerd out about fitness. My email is “10minutemile,” so I kind of make fun of myself a lot. I’m always out there doing things fitness-wise that I’m just too old to do anymore, but I keep doing them and just laugh at myself. I do Orangetheory twice a week and run a few races every year, including mud runs, trail runs, costume runs and at least one half marathon, where I’m always a solid below-average finisher. And Stitch Fix — I nerd out about that too. I think I’ve talked every woman in the Thomson Reuters breakroom into it.

Why does the world need more nerds?

First of all, we’re really harmless. I think nerds just want to get along with everybody. Nerds are just good people. We’re so nerdy, we wouldn’t judge anybody else for what they’re into.

JUST PRESS PLAY: Is there a pop culture offering — book, movie, album, TV show, podcast, etc. — that you have considered life-changing?

The Four Agreements is a book that is life-changing. In fact, I wear a bracelet every day that has the four agreements engraved on it. It’s a personal development book, and the four agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

Those sound really simple, but then they break it down for you. “Be impeccable with your word” is about being careful in what you say to people and how it affects them. “Don’t take anything personally” is a great one, because it’s talking about even the good things. They say you shouldn’t take compliments personally because it’s not about you, it’s about the person giving the compliment, and that’s a big defining moment. It just makes you more comfortable in your own skin — what someone thinks of me is not about me, it’s about them. Also, “Don’t make assumptions” — I live by that one also. And “Always do your best” is a great one, especially for me, because your best can be different at any given time on any given day. It really kicked me into the mode of personal development and what it is and why it’s important. It’s just made life a little easier.

Chris Knight is a self-described
Knight also is a Marvel fan and an avid Reddit reader.

Chris Knight (’10)

B.S., integrative studies

Current job: Founder and CEO, Universe Recruiting

Linkedin description: Masterful recruiter, stock market nerd, data mining novice, perpetual neophyte

Fun fact: Knight and his wife foster pugs.

 

What does the term ‘nerd’ mean to you?

Someone who is unapologetically passionate about a topic, even if it’s outside the mainstream. It’s not a bad term anymore — that idea of picking on someone because they’re a nerd has definitely changed over time.

Why do you describe yourself as a stock market nerd?

About six or seven years ago, I started a new job and got a 401K, and I thought, “Where is my money going when they do this, what is all this about?” And I just got obsessed and learned all about it, and it’s just been progressing ever since. I don’t think “stock market nerd” sounds as nerdy as maybe something like “anime nerd,” but once you’re so knowledgeable about a certain topic, you become a nerd.

What is the nerdiest thing you’ve ever done?

I have a smart home obsession. I can open the garage from my phone. And I was obsessed with lights — I wanted to change all of our light bulbs to smart LEDs to save money.

Are there pop culture things you are particularly nerdy about?

Memes. There are so many, I see them all on Reddit — I’m on there all day, every day. And I love Marvel. I’m seeing Endgame on opening day.

Do you have a favorite nerd?

The Hulk. He’s emotional and kind of unsure of himself. I told you, I’m a Marvel nerd.

Why does the world need more nerds?

I think nowadays, it’s cool to not care, even when it comes to the things you enjoy. But being passionate about something most of the time can really help the world — you can share that knowledge with other people. It spreads joy; you can’t help but like when someone is passionate about something, at least if you’re a normal human being. It’s contagious. When you see someone like that, you think, “Man, when was the last time I was passionate about something that wholeheartedly?” It creates a nerd aura that makes you want to be like that again.

JUST PRESS PLAY: Is there a pop culture offering —book, movie, album, TV show, podcast, etc. — that you have considered life-changing?

I used to be a math major up until multivariable, and then I was like, “Whoa, maybe not.” But I always tell younger kids, in math the most important concepts are algebra and statistics and probability. I read The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, and it humbled me. I thought, “Wow, I really don’t know how that stuff works, even though I was really sure that I did.”

Jenna Anderson is a self-described
Anderson loves podcasts, comic books and owns a host of Funko Pops.

Jenna Anderson (’17)

B.F.A., media arts

Current job: Staff writer, ComicBook.com

Linkedin description: Writer, podcaster, nerd

Fun fact: Anderson served as president of UNT Nerdfighters, a campus club dedicated to being an “open and welcoming nerdy community,” for two and a half years.

 

What does the term ‘nerd’ mean to you?

It means someone who is passionate about a particular thing and wants to share it with the world — someone who wants to foster positive discussions or a community about the thing they love.

Why do you describe yourself as a nerd?

I’ve always been very passionate about whatever my interests have been, even when I was a little kid. If I found a movie I loved, I would watch it so many times, my parents would get sick of it. Once I found the internet fandom space, I realized there were so many great opportunities to talk to other people who have the same interests as me.

What is the nerdiest thing you’ve ever done?

I used to be really active on Tumblr, and it got to a point where I would set alarms and get up in the middle of the night to check it. I don’t know why — the stuff was still going to be there in the morning — but I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to see what was going on.

Are there pop culture things you are particularly nerdy about?

I love the comic book world as a whole — even the big blockbuster superhero movies, I still feel that giddiness when I’m watching them even though I write about them every day. I love podcasts and collecting Funko Pops. I have at least 150 to 200 Funko Pops. My favorite is Black Canary — I have a shrine for her.

Do you have a favorite nerd?

There are a couple of people in the comic industry who embrace their nerdiness in a way that I’m really drawn to and inspired by. The one that most comes to mind is Kelly Sue DeConnick, who wrote the relaunch of Captain Marvel that heavily inspired the movie. She’s the kind of person where I think, “I want to be you when I grow up,” because she just embraces how nerdy she is and how awesome the comic industry can be while also making it more diverse and inclusive and female-oriented.

Why does the world need more nerds?

The nerd world brings a positivity and enthusiasm that I think we always need. Being enthusiastic about something and wanting to look at something from as many different angles as possible because you care about that thing so much is useful for life in general. Nerdy people instinctively have that outlook.

JUST PRESS PLAY: Is there a pop culture offering — book, movie, album, TV show, podcast, etc. — that you have considered life-changing?

There’s a comic series called Birds of Prey, written by Gale Simone, that impacted me in a really positive way. It’s about three female superheroes fighting crime in Gotham and, for lack of a better phrase, picking up the slack when the male superheroes can’t do it. At the heart of the series are the relationships and complexity of the female characters. Birds of Prey came out at a time when female characters in comics were not portrayed as positively as they are now. That arc of seeing women interact with each other and not be limited to one thing was so positive for me as a reader, and I think positive for the industry as a whole.

Rosalinda Cobb is a self-described
Cobb also is a "Star Wars" enthusiast -- she and her husband dressed as Princess Leia and Han Solo at their wedding.

Rosalinda Cobb (’08)

B.A., history and RTVF

Current job: Marketing specialist, city of Pflugerville

Linkedin description: Tech Nerd | Creating content, educating others and answering your questions about all the things

Fun fact: As a student in professor Ben Levin’s class, Cobb made a documentary about her best friend’s brother’s sports car. She also served as a production assistant on the documentary The Revisionaries.

 

What does the term ‘nerd’ mean to you?

“Nerd” is kind of your renaissance person — someone who does a little bit of everything. Like when you find yourself in a role and it’s difficult to describe to anybody else what you do — I was at a teen job fair recently, and trying to explain my title “marketing specialist.” That title doesn’t really encompass everything I do for the city. You’ll find a lot of industries across the board are chronically understaffed and so they find themselves hiring people who can do a lot of things. So “nerd” is someone who can pick things up quickly and run with them.

Why do you describe yourself as a tech nerd?

I’ve always been interested in what’s coming out that’s new. But there’s also the professional interest of “How can I adapt this to what I do?” Right now, in the marketing industry, automation is really big — anything from automated emails to automated messages on Facebook to automated chats on websites — but as far as what interests me and my passion, it’s editing anything film-related and photo-related.

What is the nerdiest thing you’ve ever done?

When I got married, my husband and I had a Star Wars-themed wedding. I dressed up as Princess Leia and he dressed up as Han Solo, although his favorite characters are all “Dark Side” characters. I had to twist his arm to dress up like Han Solo … Princess Leia walking down the aisle with Darth Vader is a little weird. On our first anniversary, when The Force Awakens came out, we rented a theater at the Alamo Drafthouse and held a private screening. That’s probably pretty high up there, as far as nerd factor goes.

Are there pop culture things you are particularly nerdy about?

Comic books, Star Trek. The Oracle is another great sci-fi show that I’ve really been enjoying. I was in the anime club at UNT, so I’m really into anime and manga. Right now, I’m watching Attack on Titan — I hadn’t seen it up until now.

Do you have a favorite nerd?

I like Elon Musk. He’s out there — I like reading about him because he always seems to be up to something, good or bad. I love tracking how passionate he is about space travel, and not just from a research standpoint. He’s interested in taking technology and going beyond research and into enjoyment. I think that fascinates me because it really connects people to technology and to the future. It’s kind of like how people aren’t really interested in conservation until they visit a park. You can talk about different things that are out there, but people can’t really connect with it until they can enjoy it.

Why does the world need more nerds?

They’re interested in a lot of different things, and when that’s the case, you can connect with more people. Your little community gets bigger the more people you can talk to and bring into your world.

JUST PRESS PLAY: Is there a pop culture offering — book, movie, album, TV show, podcast, etc. — that you have considered life-changing?

When I was at UNT, I read this comic book series called Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis … I bought it at this little comic book shop across from campus that also sold record players. For some reason, Transmetropolitan really shifted the way that I thought about a lot of different things. It changed the way I thought about comics — up until that point, I was reading your average superhero comics, and it was the first time I read something where the protagonist is hardly a hero. It also changed the way I thought about storytelling. The comic itself dealt with a lot of futuristic themes, so that continued to spark my interest in technology.

 

Are you a nerd, too? Then we want to know! Send us your own story of nerddom to erin.cristales@unt.edu.

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