(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."
Join the Center for Military Families for a panel on Politics in the Service of Military Families, featuring Cedric Leighton, David Splitter, Steve Huerta, and the Office of Congressman Henry Cuellar. The event is free and open to the public.
Buena Vista Street Building, Aula Canaria Lecture Hall (BVB 1.328), Downtown Campus
UTSA Dance classes will take the stage and share their talents and passion for dance! Come support our growing dance program! $10 admission
Buena Vista Street Building Theater (BVB 1.326), Downtown Campus
This panel presentation will look at the history of the YWCA and the impact the organization has had on women in the San Antonio community.
McKinney Humanities Building (MH 2.02.10), Main Campus
The Demography Lecture Series continues with Dr. Barbara Bird of American University. Her topic focuses on Insights Into a Hard to Find Population: Latino Entrepreneurs in Metro Washington, D.C. Event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the pay stall spaces of the Monterrey surface lot.
Monterrey Building (MNT 3.240), Downtown Campus
This video tells the story of four Latina lesbians who fought for exoneration after being wrongfully convicted of sexually assaulting two girls during the Satanic Panic witch-hunt era of the 1980s and 1990s.
North Paseo Building (NPB 1.114), Main Campus
Tejana/Indígena author Ire'ne Lara Ailva will read from her latest work and discuss her approach to reimagining Tejan@ myths.
Main Building (MB 2.404), Main Campus
Muralist Crystal Arias will discuss her current mural "Cultivate the Past to Prestige" at La India Herbs and themes she utilizes in her other works.
McKinney Humanities Building (MH 3.02.26), Main Campus
The UTSA Department of Modern Languages and Literatures is a co-sponsor of the CARTA 19th Annual Conference. The group meets annually to exchange educational programs, ideas, and techniques and to network with other teachers of Russian. Registration required.
DoubleTree by Hilton, Downtown San Antonio
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.
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