Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Air Force Capt. Jessica Woods '08 finds opportunity at UTSA

Jessica Woods

Jessica Woods '08

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(Sept. 27, 2010)--In 1996, 17-year-old Jessica Woods '08 sent a proposal to the U.S. Air Force. If the Air Force paid her way through college, in return she would serve for the equivalent number of years.

The military accepted Woods' proposal. In 2000, she crossed the stage at Memphis-based Christian Brothers University to accept her bachelor's degree in civil engineering. By 2005, Woods had repaid her debt to the Air Force, serving as a civil engineer at San Antonio's Brooks City-Base and earning the rank of captain. During that time, she managed military construction and environmental programs for Air Mobility Command installations.

As her four-year contract neared its end, the Air Force offered to send her to graduate school. The opportunity led her to weigh her options and choose between Georgia Tech and UTSA. In the end, she decided to stay local.

"I did some research on various engineering schools and on UTSA, and I learned that UTSA's engineering programs are very competitive, particularly in civil engineering, when compared to some of the larger engineering schools," she said.

As a UTSA master's student, Woods studied environmental engineering, water resources, bridge design and pavements. Using a process called wavelet analysis, she also researched airfield pavements and developed a metric that better resembles the roughness an aircraft feels when it traverses a runway. She presented the research in her thesis at the 88th annual Transportation Research Board conference in Washington, D.C.

But Woods was no ordinary master's student. During her second year of study, she gave birth to her son. By necessity, she and her husband developed a strict schedule to serve their growing family. Each morning, Woods dropped off her son at day care, allowing her to spend the day on her homework and thesis.

Meanwhile, her husband worked full-time as an Air Force navigator. When he returned in the evening, they shifted the childcare duties allowing her to attend evening classes. The schedule allowed Woods to maintain a 4.0 grade point average. It also gave her the time she needed to network with faculty and students.

"I went to a small undergraduate school for the purpose of getting one-on-one interaction, and I was afraid of getting lost at UTSA. But that didn't happen," she recalled. "Dr. Papagiannakis, my thesis adviser, was a wealth of knowledge and very supportive of my career and my goals. He really has a passion for engineering and it shows in his interaction with students. He was a tremendous mentor."

Woods also found her fellow students engaging and supportive.

"I enjoyed meeting graduate students who worked in other areas outside of the military," she said. "I liked the networking and cross-talk. I liked learning about the local projects they were working on."

In May 2008, Woods graduated summa cum laude with a master's degree in civil engineering. Shortly thereafter, she was deployed to Iraq, where she spent a year managing construction and facilities policies for the entire theater of operations. While in Iraq, Woods experienced a proud moment when she received an e-mail from home saying the International Journal of Applied Aviation Studies planned to publish a synopsis of her thesis.

Now home from Iraq, Woods reflects on her UTSA experience.

"I took graduate school seriously because I had spent enough time in the profession to see how it applied to my daily life and I really enjoyed the experience," she said. "Assignments didn't feel like homework and were always interesting and challenging. I was excited to learn. I appreciated the education. I was very happy selecting UTSA."

 

 

Did You Know?

For acclaimed UTSA writer, poetry rhymes with life

Robert Penn Warren said: “How do poems grow? They grow out of your life.” That is certainly true for Carmen Tafolla. An associate professor of practice with the UTSA College of Education and Human Development, Tafolla has authored more than 20 acclaimed books of poetry and prose, including "The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans." It won the Tom´s Rivera Children’s Book Award in 2009.

Tafolla is a San Antonio native who grew up on the West Side. Attending a private high school, she realized that the literature did not positively portray her community or the people who lived there. She determined to change that in her writing. In published works for both adults and children — more than 200 anthologies, magazines, journals, textbooks and readers in four languages — Tafolla reflects on the rich Mexican-American culture of San Antonio in which she grew up.

Did you know? Tafolla was San Antonio's first Poet Laureate, from 2012 to 2014, and currently serves as the Poet Laureate of Texas.

Read More »
Events
Aug. 4, 6 - 8 p.m.

Free Teacher Tuesday: Los Tejanos Workshop

Discover resources and strategies for teaching Tejano history and culture and get a special educator's tour of the new long-term exhibit, Los Tejanos.
Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.

Aug. 6, 5 - 7 p.m.; 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

6th Annual Texas Higher Education Symposium

This annual symposium is an opportunity to discuss Texas higher education issues and trends with Texas higher education scholars, state and local government officials, students, and campus and local community members.
Downtown Campus

Aug. 9, 12 - 5 p.m.

Vaquerocation 2015

This cowboy-themed programming, offered in conjunction with Our Kids Magazine's Kidcation Week, gives families the opportunity to visit with cowboy docents, enjoy readings and visit activity tables.
Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.

Aug. 17, 11:30 p.m.

Midnight Light

Join President Ricardo Romo, The Spirit of San Antonio Marching Band, students, faculty and staff to light the monument at the Main Campus entrance at the stroke of midnight.
John Peace Boulevard Entrance, Main Campus

Aug. 18, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

President's BBQ on the Plaza

Join university President Ricardo Romo on the Bill Miller Plaza for his annual free BBQ lunch.
Bill Miller Plaza, Downtown Campus

Aug. 18, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

President's BBQ on the Lawn

Join university President Ricardo Romo on the Convocation Center lawn for his annual free BBQ lunch.
Convocation Center East Lawn, Main Campus

Aug. 22, 6 p.m.

UTSA Alumni Gala

The UTSA Alumni Association hosts this annual gala honoring the Alumna of the Year, Alumnus of the Year and the Alumnus of the Year Lifetime Achievement award winners.
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa, 9800 Hyatt Resort Dr.


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