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In his capacity as a senior administrator in the school, Woods works hard to ensure that the University continues to graduate talented students.

Pictured: David Woods, Ph.D.

Photo by Justin D. Knight

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David Woods: A Familiar Face and Guiding Hand
By Jihan Asher

For more than 40 years, David Woods, Ph.D., has been a familiar face and a guiding hand in the John H. Johnson School of Communications. The associate dean guides students through the ups and downs of their academic careers in the school, the third largest at Howard.

In his capacity as a senior administrator in the school, Woods works hard to ensure that the University continues to graduate talented students. He serves as chief problem solver, helping students through what he calls “registration, personal and life problems”—something that students and co-workers alike can appreciate.

“He is the best,” says Grace Virtue, Ph.D., a 2001 graduate of the school. Woods was chair of her dissertation committee and is now a good friend. “I wanted him on my committee because I knew he would go through my work with a fine tooth comb. He would dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s” and if I needed a hug or lunch, he would take care of that too.”

A linguist by training, Woods has served regularly on thesis and dissertation committees in the Department of Communication and Culture and in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. In addition, he reviews articles submitted to the Howard Journal of Communication. As a lifetime member of the Linguistic Society of America, he has made numerous scholarly contributions to his field and to African Studies.

From 1990 to 1992, he taught in the Congo Republic as a Fulbright Lecturer. During the summer of 1991, he created a sociolinguistic survey about the use of the three layers of languages used by virtually all Congolese: one of about 50 mother tongues, two national languages and the official language, French. After bringing the collected data home, he published roughly one paper a year for the next five years and presented them at the Annual Conference on African Linguistics. In the process of studying Congolese languages, he learned Lingala and used it on the streets and at the marketplace. He recalls with fondness his experience immersed in the life and traditions of the Congo Republic.

“My life was unencumbered by a car, a telephone, television, air conditioning or hot water,” he says. “Plus, I enjoyed my students very much.”

Woods currently teaches one class each spring and says he enjoys teaching challenging courses because, “If I am successful, I get the students to focus on the challenge and I am able to lead them to an insightful understanding and a new way of looking at the subject.”

In 2001, the School of Communications honored him for more than 30 years of outstanding contributions and the 2003 graduating class recognized him for his dedicated support of students.

Yet his influence extends beyond the classroom. Woods is co-founder and co-facilitator of the ManUp Project, a support group for male faculty, staff and students in the School of Communications and the community. He founded the project, along with Jim Brown and John Davis, in response to concerns expressed by senior counselor Bernadette Williams about the need for mentoring young Black males in the school. The project started with the specific goal of retaining male students at an institution where they are outnumbered two to one by females.

“ManUp involves building a circle of trust and confidentiality at each meeting, which allows men to speak from the heart about any issue that is absorbing them at the moment,” Woods says. “It is a liberating experience for most men.”

He continues: “We now have a regular cadre of men over 40 who join our meetings as mentors but who, like all of us, benefit themselves from the experience of old and young, Black and White, sharing the experience of life.”

Lincoln Brown, placement services assistant in the School of Communications and a member since the project began, sees it as a high value and high impact “not only to the male faculty and staff of the School of Communications, but also to the men who have participated since its inception." As for Woods, Brown says “He is a man of great integrity, compassion and strength, hospitable to all who seek his advice and a role model for all.”

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