Accepted by nine universities that were bidding competitively for her, Dr. Lynette Wood put the difficult choice of which offer to accept into the hands of a committee. A family committee.
“My husband and children were fully involved in my search. Some schools were very prestigious, but the family said, ‘No way,’” she recalls.
Dr. Wood took her husband and their two pre-teen children to several campuses, none of them near their Alabama home, for personal visits. Indiana University won out, and it also gained a new Master’s student in journalism: Dr. Wood’s husband.
A onetime consultant and entrepreneur, Dr. Wood had dropped out of college after one year for financial reasons. She returned to undergraduate studies at age twenty-nine on a full scholarship and went on to earn her Masters. By now she thoroughly understood both the value of higher education and the critical importance of timing in a career move. She had planned to delay pursuing her doctorate until the children were older. Her department chair encouraged her to accelerate the timetable, pointing out that, “there were good opportunities right now.”
“I respond well to opportunity,” she observes.
Fully committed as she was to the doctoral program, Dr. Wood had two even higher priorities in her life: her faith and her family. Throughout her Ph.D. studies, she remained an actively engaged mother—one who performed several hours of church volunteer work weekly in addition to her academic role.
“I would not make a choice that put career before children. I treated the doctoral program as a job,” she explains. “Many mothers work. I was there for my children as a typical mother would be. When they were at school, so was I. When they went to bed, I went back to work. I just focused; I was more intense when at work.”
Through her church, Dr. Wood ran community outreach and service programs, and participated in lay ministry activities, when not cramming the books or attending to her children.
“It took me a little longer, but I finished. I tried to have a fulfilling life. I didn’t want to be so stressed out that I would be overwhelmed. It wasn’t easy, but it was do-able.”
Today at Virginia Tech University, Dr. Wood reports that her youngest child has finished college. On campus, this professor plays an active role in the lives of many current and former students, often meeting with them outside of class hours to mentor and advise. Sometimes a student’s needs are more personal than academic. Through the years, Dr. Wood has demonstrated her caring for them by inviting groups of students to dine at her home regularly. Once during office hours, a student whose husband had left her as her mother was dying came by just to talk. Dr. Wood provided a sympathetic ear.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Wood places a high premium on active learning in the classroom. “I use a coach-team approach. I find out what they want to accomplish, and I help them accomplish it. I lecture very little in the classroom; I give students the opportunity to be interactive.”
“It is so satisfying to know that I have been able to make a difference in students’ lives, says Dr. Wood. “I’ve had students call me at home to say ‘Happy New Year’ and ‘Happy Mother’s Day.’ That’s special.”
The dream continues…
Prior to Dr. Wood’s arrival at her original university Virginia Tech, with African-Americans comprising 3% of the student body, did not have a chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants as chartering one is a rigorous, complex process. Dr. Wood took on the challenge and succeeded; 70% of the African-American accounting majors now belong. In addition to teaching, she is increasing her attention to campus-wide diversity recruiting issues, and continues to advise students on professional development. African-American students in many majors seek her out informally for guidance and support. Dr. Wood is now chair of the Department of Accounting & Management Information Systems at Winston-Salem State University.