University of Michigan-Dearborn’s campus was one of the first college campuses Joey Woods ever visited. Woods, who was a first-generation college student, said he felt awe and pride as he walked through campus.
“When I got here, I had to walk around to take it in. I felt very privileged to be here,” Woods said. “My mom, who is my pillar and has always worked so hard for me, inspired me to go to college. I didn’t want to take anything for granted.”
So he’d spend long hours in Mardigian Library. To support him, Woods’ mother and dog, Stitch, would come to campus to say hello and give him a needed study break.
He made friends from different countries and backgrounds, developed a love for Middle Eastern food and decided to major—based on hearing about others’ experiences—in the social sciences.
“My mom and my grandma always talked about how important it was to get to know your neighbor, to respect and listen. That’s how you grow,” he said. “My high school (East Detroit High School) was diverse, but not as culturally rich as our campus. I’ve learned a lot here, even how similar we all are. We are all after progress, progress of self and community.”
Today, Woods works in the Industrial Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE) department as an academic records assistant. He greets faculty, staff and students with a similar enthusiasm he felt when he first stepped onto campus.
The Detroit native started working part-time in the IMSE department as a student more than a decade ago and was offered a full-time position while completing his coursework.
“Even though I wasn’t an engineering student, the engineering complex is my favorite part of campus,” Woods said. “I love the department, meeting new people and hearing their stories—especially talking with and helping the large number of international students who come into the office.”
He also enjoys walking through the different engineering area hallways, hearing lectures and seeing labs.
“There is so much innovation. All of these ideas from all over the world come together in this one place. It’s amazing,” he said. “And with the new Engineering Lab Building coming in a few years, more people will get the chance to see and experience what I get to.”
Woods said he’s proud to be a graduate and employee of a strong university system that gives so many people opportunities to make a difference.
“We have industrial partners, expert advice, different perspectives and really determined people. This is a place that gives you the resources to succeed,” said Woods (’15 B.A.). “When I graduated with honors, I did that for my mom, to give her something back for all that she’s done for me.
“I see that in a lot of our students. They are in college because someone motivated them; and, once here, our faculty and staff continue to encourage them to keep working toward their goals and change their lives for the better.”
Woods’ story is part of a yearlong initiative to tell staff stories to celebrate University of Michigan’s bicentennial. This article will be submitted to the Stories of the Staff archive. All U-M staff are encouraged to share their own stories online.