Call him Dr. Boombox Guy

What started as a silly idea between two good friends turned into a character that has been famous on the University of South Carolina Columbia campus for more than 10 years: Boombox Guy.

J.J. Shepherd started carrying an old-school boombox on his shoulder more than a decade ago. He walked around campus, blaring whatever was on his mix tape that day, just to bring smiles to the faces of his fellow classmates. Initially he made only occasional outings, but eventually adopted the Boombox Guy persona every day.

He completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Carolina and last year received his doctorate, all in computer science and all while carrying that boombox.

During his time as a student, Shepherd made the most of what UofSC had to offer. He was involved in the computer science club, worked with the school radio station WUSC, spoke at TEDxColumbiaSC and created Indi Bites, an independent Southeastern game developers conference in Columbia.

Now, the forever Gamecock is a professor of computer science at the university. He also does research on human computer interactions using video games.

He studies how gaming can be used to improve people's everyday lives.

Shepherd helped to develop a game called "Lost in the Middle Kingdom.” The game works like Rosetta Stone and teaches the Chinese language using total immersion.  Another game he helped develop is called "Name Game.” It's used to help people who have had a stroke to relearn how to talk.  

“I do this kind of work because of my love of games and my love of helping people,” says Shepherd. “I was lucky enough to find a way to combine the two, and I hope to further finding new areas of research where games can be applied.”

His other love is teaching. He says he went into teaching for the “aha moment.”

“When you realize they understand what you’re going over, it’s like a rush,” says Shepherd.

After 11 years at UofSC, Shepherd says he can’t imagine anywhere else being home.

“It means everything to me. I don’t know any other place that would tolerate my nonsense. It’s given me countless opportunities and jobs. It means the world to me.”

While his wardrobe may have changed, his homework load may have lightened, and boombox sightings may have decreased, he says Boombox Guy is still very much alive.

“Boombox Guy will always be a part of USC, in some way or another.”

Learn more

Share this Story! Let friends in your social network know what you are reading about