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Distance Learning's Cheryl Woods Wins Customer Relations Employee of the Year Award

Old Dominion's 2012 Customer Relations Employee of the Year is proof that you don't have to be a longtime employee of the university - or even a full-time employee - to make a valuable contribution.

Cheryl Woods, who joined Distance Learning's planning and development office in November 2011 as an hourly employee, was honored at ODU's annual employee recognition luncheon Dec. 11 as the winner of this year's award. Woods was nominated by her supervisor, Susan Kenter, and the planning and development unit.

Woods was one of two customer service specialists hired late last year to respond to the increasing number of inquiries from prospective students the Distance Learning operation was receiving from its new website.

"These were new positions, and Cheryl worked hard to learn about the university so she would be better prepared to answer the myriad of questions she received," Kenter said.

Since March of this year, however, Woods has served as Distance Learning's only customer service specialist. To date, she has received, logged in and responded to more than 7,000 inquiries, Kenter said.

From faculty, to students to the parents of prospective students, Woods interacts with many different types of people on a daily basis. "She shows the same respect to all of the people with whom she interacts, whether they are contacting her from Norfolk, Roanoke, a military base in Germany or Australia," Kenter said. "She has a wonderful ability to be professional and yet friendly at the same time."

Kenter recalls Woods' handling of one particular call that she said demonstrated her patience and desire to be of help. "In one specific call Cheryl answered, she found herself talking to a very upset mother of a new student. This woman was angry and yelling, but really just wanted to be heard by someone who could help her. Cheryl remained calm during the entire call, listened carefully, and was able to provide information that helped the woman figure out the issue that had upset her. By the end of the call, the woman was profusely thanking Cheryl and was left with a much better impression of ODU - all because of Cheryl."

Kenter noted that, since this was a new position in Distance Learning, there was no "how-to" manual for Woods to read and get up to speed. "Cheryl has always been willing to search out the answers that she needs by using the Web or other resources in our office," Kenter said. "She created a manual that contains the information she needed to accurately answer the most frequently asked questions, which she updates as necessary."

Woods even took the initiative to find a new use for an old whiteboard that was being sent to surplus, turning it into a quick reference not only used her, but also by others in Distance Learning.

"Cheryl is a pleasant colleague and is always willing to assist any other member of the Distance Learning team with any other tasks," Kenter said. "She recently helped our marketing coordinator pull together 50 sets of promotional items that were needed immediately for distribution to a group. Cheryl is a collaborative and helpful member of our group and does not say 'that's not my job.'"

Kenter concluded, "Cheryl is professional, respectful and knowledgeable, and a great addition to our staff as the first face/voice of Distance Learning at ODU."

As winner of the Customer Relations award, Woods receives a $500 bonus and a plaque.

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