(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."
The UTSA community welcomes students to their on-campus home! Laurel Village, Chaparral Village and Alvarez Hall are home for 2,300 students during the academic year, and Move-In event kicks off the start of Roadrunner Days.
Laurel Village, Chaparral Village, Alvarez Hall, Main Campus
The College of Engineering hosts this seminar featuring Jeff Adams, Southwest Zone Quality Manager, Siemens Building Technologies Division. The event is free and open to the public.
Engineering Building (EB 3.04.30), Main Campus
This is a terrific opportunity for incoming transfer students to network with staff that serve our veteran, non-traditional, and transferring students, as well as meet transfer peer mentors who can help answer questions about UTSA.
Main Building ground floor lobby, Main Campus
After a day full of moving and getting settled into their new UTSA home, students and their families can have some refreshments and snacks at the Welcome Back Reception. The event tops off with the premiere performance of the Spirit of San Antonio, UTSA's Marching Band.
University Center Paseo, Main Campus
Can you survive the library wilderness? As a part of Roadrunner Days, UTSA Libraries is hosting a mobile adventure for you to play and find out more about the library!
John Peace Library, 2nd floor, Main Campus
Come meet your UTSA Volleyball Team as they gear up for the 2017 season! The game begins at 5 p.m. then the team will hold an autograph and photo session after the game.
Convocation Center, Main Campus
This engaging discussion pulls back the covers on hooking up, clarifying when it’s actually sexual violence and how bystanders can protect potential victims from predators.
University Center, Retama Auditorium (UC 2.02.02), Main Campus
Late Night at the Rec is an awesome UTSA tradition that transforms a standard information session into an exciting night of fun. At this annual event, you’ll be able to learn about our facilities, recreation programs, and wellness services offered at Main and Downtown Campuses.
Recreation and Wellness Center, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.