For Beth Woods and her team, information technology goes beyond coding and servers.
In fact, they made sure more than 300 classrooms were ready for both in-person and virtual learning in August.
“Everyone came together to find a solution that was cost-effective, that met the needs of faculty and students, and that we could roll out either internally or with a vendor,” said Woods, executive director for IT in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “It was truly a team effort; I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Woods got her bachelor’s degree from Agnes Scott College and then moved to Athens to pursue her master’s degree in instructional technology—and later a doctorate in learning, design, and technology—in UGA’s Mary Frances Early College of Education. She then worked in both public and private K-12 schools for several years as a classroom teacher and instructional technologist before taking a position in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences in 2008. In 2010, she shifted to Franklin College and has been there since then.
Woods admits that her career path was a bit indirect. When she started her undergraduate studies, she thought she might go into mechanical or aerospace engineering and studied physics. She decided that wasn’t for her and ended up getting a second bachelor’s degree in music. It was through an internship working with a local audiovisual technology consulting company that she was introduced to the instructional technology field. That led to a student worker job that she loved and cemented her career path.
Instructional technology and information technology are similar and different, Woods said. Information technology is the foundational component that supports instructional technology, which is “the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management and evaluation of processes and resources for learning,” according to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. The fields are similar in that they both require technical problem-solving and customer service skills and help people feel supported.
Her current position is the perfect blend of both fields—and her love of arts and sciences.
“There is no shortage of opportunities to learn more,” she said. “What I really love is working with people and helping them find new opportunities or a new way.”
When leading an IT team for a college as large and diverse as Franklin, Woods said it’s often more about the relationships than it is the technology. Even though Franklin College includes vastly different fields of study, the tools they use have similarities. So, her team creates services that span across all of those academic divisions, and they’re encouraged to seek out training opportunities in specialized areas and new technologies to support the unique needs of departments. This innovative work is usually done in partnership with faculty collaborators whose research and teaching drive technology use.
“What we can all come together around is coming up with creative solutions, approaching them from different angles,” she said.
Woods’ involvement at UGA extends beyond her position. She represents Franklin College on UGA’s Staff Council, currently serving as parliamentarian and taking the role of vice president on July 1. She also sits on the University Council’s strategic planning committee and has had an active role on the ad hoc COVID-19 Response Committee.
“I was interested in helping ensure that staff have a voice and a seat at the table and that they’re contributing to opportunities presented at the university,” she said.
Woods helped grow Franklin College’s representation on Staff Council, going from one to three seats. She’s also working toward creating a Staff Representative Group—the governance body at the school, college or vice presidential unit level that directly elects members to the Staff Council—for Franklin College.
In addition to a Franklin College SRG, Woods works with her team and campus colleagues to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment. She wants to encourage more women to get involved in IT and pursue leadership roles at all levels. She also wants all staff members to know what opportunities are available to them and said that Staff Council is a great resource for that. In her own college, she’s helping implement Franklin Works, an initiative designed to improve career paths and professional development support for staff while enhancing service and support for departments.
Outside of UGA, Woods is an avid supporter of the GymDogs and enjoys spending time with her family, including her dog, and time outdoors hiking and gardening. She’s working on what she calls her “Life List,” rather than her bucket list, which includes seeing a whale in the ocean, visiting each of the national parks, touching an elephant and traveling to countries she hasn’t been just to observe what life is like there.
According to Woods, she’s working hard now to enjoy those opportunities later. In the meantime, she’s making the most of her position.
“Everything I do is in support of my team and my college,” Woods said. “It’s not about being out front or being important. It’s not about me. It’s about helping students, helping the university and helping others.”