It is with profound sadness that we share with you the news that Benji Chang passed away in his sleep this past Tuesday night. Benji joined the School of Education faculty in 2019 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Higher Education (TEHE), and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2021. Prior to joining UNCG, Benji was on faculty at the Education University of Hong Kong.
Benji was a rigorous and deeply thoughtful scholar who took an interdisciplinary approach drawing from cultural studies, critical education, and sociocultural learning theory, to investigate issues of pedagogy, teacher education, community engagement, and sustainability towards social justice with minoritized and diasporic communities. A scholar who walked his talk, Benji spent many years as a community organizer working with youth of color in impoverished neighborhoods, steeping himself in context and steadfastly building authentic relationships with youth and community stakeholders. Benji grounded his scholarship in a deep and embodied commitment to the communities with whom he worked.
Benji had multiple collaborators globally and his contributions to scholarship were diverse. In North America, he contributed to the development of interdisciplinary approaches in educational research, especially through the use of Ethnic Studies and Cultural Studies. He also contributed to scholarship on the use of community organizing approaches to teaching, school change, and social movements regarding educational equity, immigrant rights, and social justice for minoritized communities.
For his contributions in research, teaching, and service, Benji received distinctions from bodies such as the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). At UNCG, he was nominated for the Outstanding teaching award in his first year. Benji was a sponsoring faculty member who founded, with colleagues and students, the School of Education’s Students of Color Collective. He was an inspiring instructor and mentor beloved by his students.
In addition to being an outstanding scholar and teacher, Benji was skilled in martial arts and an accomplished hip-hop artist who had deejayed for the famous Black and Brown Party at the annual American Educational Research Association conferences. He was a true friend one could count on, a devoted son, a loving spouse, a doting father, and a wonderful brother and uncle. For a scholar and teacher who had made disrupting injustices in education his life’s work, Benji had a great sense of humor and could laugh at himself with ease. He is sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, students, colleagues, and community.
ComPsych, the University’s Employee Assistance Provider (800.630.4847), can provide support to members of the campus community affected by Benji’s death. The UNCG Counseling Center (336.334.5874) and the Dean of Students Office (336.334.5514) can provide support to students. The UNCG Counseling Center (336.334.5874) can provide support to students and other members of the campus community. The Dean of Students Office (336.334.5514) may also be a support resource for students and can be reached during business hours (Monday-Friday).