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Determination and Lessons Learned – from Both a Wise Grandmother and ODU – Lead Engineering Grad to Promising Job

For three years, visitors to Dean Oktay Baysal's office have seen the friendly, familiar face of Marcus Woody, a mechanical engineering technology major who has been helping pay for his education through his job as a student worker.

Faculty, staff and students from the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology who've gotten to know the affable 23-year-old senior likely have no idea what a significant accomplishment it is for Woody to receive his engineering degree next month. "I really didn't tell anybody," he said.

Raised by his grandmother Mary, Woody and his Aunt Margaret are the first members of their entire family to go to college. "My grandmother spent 30 years working at a furniture factory. She wanted us to have opportunities she never had," Woody said. His grandmother, he added, operated under the following motivational mantra: "You've got to better yourself in order to be something."

The lesson rubbed off on Woody and Margaret. She had started school at Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, Va., but when Woody moved from Martinsville to Norfolk to attend Old Dominion, she was inspired to enroll at the university as well. She studied human services counseling via distance learning, and both Woodys will receive their degrees from ODU during commencement on May 11.

"It's been great to be able to go through this experience together," Woody said.

His journey from Martinsville to Norfolk has proved eventful. But you won't find Woody among the ranks of academic award winners this spring. A self-professed non-natural at the study of engineering, Woody had to devote a significant piece of his time to campus jobs to stay enrolled, which further complicated his academic pursuit. He has worked at ODU's Career Management Center throughout his time at the university, in addition to holding down the job in the engineering dean's office for the past three years.

But Woody, the personification of determination, has turned his ODU experience, in school and work, into a full-time engineering job in Texas. "Everything is going crazy right now. There's so much going on with my life," said Woody, who will start work later this spring as a field specialist based in Midland, Texas, for Schlumberger, the world's leading supplier of technology, integrated project management and information solutions to customers working in the oil and gas industry.

While his employment schedule at ODU made time management a challenge, it also offered Woody a unique perspective.

"At the Career Management Center, I've been dealing with employers who come into the center since freshman year. It was not a big deal for me to go on an interview," he said. "In fact, the people (from Schlumberger) told me they hired me because they'd never seen someone so calm in an interview."

Woody said his academic experience at ODU has helped prepare him for the working world as well.

"It's more personal. The faculty are very knowledgeable and passionate about what they teach," he said. "But they know this stuff isn't easy because they went through it themselves. My classmates and I have actually called professors and they've come to meet with us on days they weren't even on campus."

When he walks across the stage to receive his degree, Woody said he will think about his grandmother, who has given him a lifetime of lessons. "She told me all the time, if you want something, you have to approach it like a career. Even in my job (in the dean's office), I tried to treat every day like this is what I would be doing for the rest of my life."

Bernie Bohm, assistant dean of engineering with the Batten College, said they've been proud to have him as an employee, and will be even prouder to count Marcus Woody as a graduate.

"He's a great guy, and you just know he's going to be successful in whatever he does," Bohm said.

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