Mother and daughter set to graduate together at UAB

While mom Kirsten Woods was working toward an online degree at UAB from Texas, daughter Shannon Woods earned her degree on campus. They will walk together at Saturday’s commencement ceremony.

shannon sheryl woodsShannon Cheryl WoodsOn Saturday, April 25, Shannon Cheryl Woods and her family will have more than one reason to celebrate.

Not only is Woods, 23, graduating from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, but her mom, Kirsten Woods, 43, is graduating too. Shannon Woods is a traditional student, graduating with a degree in health education from the School of Education’s Department of Human Studies, with a minor in nutrition from the School of Health Professions.

Kirsten Woods is graduating with a degree in psychology from the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology, and took every one of her classes online. The fact that roughly 650 miles lies between her and the UAB campus did not stop her. She lives in Frisco, Texas, and while she may have taken her classes virtually, she and her husband, Jeffery, are driving to The Magic City so she can graduate in person.

In order to utilize the GI Bill benefits earned by her dad, a career military man who joined the Air Force in Alabama, Shannon Woods had to choose a public university in the state.

“I was searching and saw UAB, and saw that it was known for medical careers,” Shannon Woods said. “And that was what I wanted to do, something in the medical field. Something just attracted me to UAB.”

Her mom, who is from Germany, wanted to go to school for a while but put it off to raise her children, then went to work. Because of her husband’s job in the military, she had to focus on being there for her family, Shannon says.

“She put it off,” she said. “But when she knew I was going to UAB, she decided to do psychology online. She has always been interested in helping other people with their emotional needs. When I was in high school, my friends would come to her for advice. She went back to school to prove to herself that she could accomplish that, especially since English isn’t her first language. Her minor is sociology. She did the entire thing online.”

The online psychology courses at UAB are increasingly popular. In 2014, more than 3,400 students were enrolled in psychology online courses at UAB.

The online psychology courses at UAB are increasingly popular. In 2014, more than 3,400 students were enrolled in psychology online courses at UAB, says Maria Hopkins, Ph.D., director of undergraduate studies and associate professor in the Department of Psychology.

“We have expanded our online course offerings over the last couple of years, which has provided more flexibility for students such as Mrs. Woods who cannot attend traditional face-to-face offerings in Birmingham,” Hopkins said. “Our online courses use teaching methods such as collaborative learning activities and interactive live lectures, which strengthen engagement with the instructor and other students in the class. Often, a sense of community develops among our online learners. Even though they may never have met face to face, they have studied together, stressed together and learned together. These students develop relationships and support each other, and it is such a delight to see them finally meet at graduation.”

While Shannon and Kirsten were in school, Jeffery Woods also was taking classes, and Shannon’s brother, Jeffery Woods Jr., 22, was at school at the University of Alabama. He chose to transfer to UAB after a knee injury sidelined his athletic plans, and he decided he wanted to be closer to his sister in Birmingham.

“When he came to UAB’s campus, he really liked it,” she said. “He also noticed how different the curriculum was here, so he came here to focus on his curriculum.”

Shannon says she changed her major a few times, from nursing to early childhood education, until she decided to combine the two fields.

“I decided to do health education because I like the health field and also like teaching,” Woods said.

It was not always easy; early on, she was on academic suspension.

“I’ve come a long way,” Woods said. “I am actually in two honors societies, the health education honors society Eta Sigma Gamma and the National Society of Leadership and Success, and my GPA is 3.11. I was also one of the first student health and wellness center peer educators last year.”

She is currently in an internship at UAB HealthSmart.

“I’m planning to work for a while in my field, then go to nursing school at UAB,” she said.