Departing associate dean and alumna Stephanie Woods keeps TWU close to the heart

June 29, 2018 – With a strong legacy of educating quality nurses, it’s no surprise to see that many TWU  graduates are being actively recruited to run nursing programs, or lead prominent hospitals or health organizations as chief nursing officers, CEOs, COOs and the like.

One recent recruit is Stephanie Woods (BSN ’79), the highly-regarded associate dean of nursing on the Dallas campus. Woods is set to depart TWU this month for her new position as dean of the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing at Texas Tech Health Science Center in El Paso. In her time at TWU, she has been a force for change and innovation, and has been one of TWU’s biggest champions.

“Dr. Woods has broad vision of what health care and nursing education should be and she consistently looks beyond what is, to what can be,” says Anita Hufft, dean of the College of Nursing. “She has modeled extraordinary drive, energy and enthusiasm for her role and for the College of Nursing. In addition to being an extraordinary professional nurse and academic administrator, Dr. Woods has been a giving and caring leader, expanding her role to nurture gifting support and generosity in spirit and time for all those with whom she works.”

During her time at TWU, Woods has been a game-changer. In the years that she has been leading the program in Dallas, nursing programs have been expanded or developed to fill the needs of the community health care systems. “Over the nine plus years that I’ve been here, I think what I’m proudest of is that people know us now,” says Woods. “They expect more of us, and we’ve been able to develop some amazing models, relationships – we’re doing exciting things.”

Woods’ road to TWU could have gone by the wayside early on if she had listened to the “advice” of one of her high school teachers. “One of my teachers said to me, ‘Stephanie, I’m not sure you have what it takes to get a bachelor’s degree in nursing – you should just go to a community college,’ and it made me mad,” she says with a smile. “So the next day, I applied to TWU.” Needless to say, she got in, and that began her path toward a lifelong career.

“TWU was an absolute life changer for me, in that it allowed me to achieve the goal of being a nurse, which I had always wanted to be,” she explains. “Something that they did here – they must have instilled that I could do anything, because when I left TWU and went to work at Parkland for my first job, I really did believe that anything was possible. And they had also somehow managed to plant the idea that my bachelor’s degree was only a first step.”

After graduation, Woods practiced at Parkland for two years before joining the U.S. Air Force. She was on active duty at Wilford Hall, which at the time was the largest Air Force hospital. When active duty was completed, she wasted no time in going back to school at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio for her master’s degree. In the 25 years that followed, Woods practiced in San Antonio, and also found time to pursue her doctorate at UT Austin.

A job at Children’s Hospital was what brought her back to Dallas after such a long hiatus. “I came back to Dallas to work at Children’s Hospital – not because I had any pediatrics experience, but to lead their education department and also help them achieve Magnet status, which is a special designation for hospitals,” explains Woods. “While I was at Children’s, I was on a committee at the state-wide level with the Texas Nurse’s Association and met the then-dean of [TWU’s] College of Nursing, Pat Holden-Huchton and we flew together on the plane back to Dallas,” she recalls. “Pat told me, ‘Now Stephanie, you’ll be staying in touch with me and you’ll be applying for the associate dean’s job that is in Dallas because that associate dean is retiring. I’m going to make sure that you do, because I’m going to call you every couple of weeks and we’ll go to dinner and stay connected.’ I mean, in her mind, I would do just that. I thought she was a little crazy at the time, but I applied.” After 25 years, Woods was headed back home.

Taking the associate dean position in Dallas brought Woods full-circle. “It was such a rare opportunity to return to the very school you graduated from and lead it,” she says. “It was such a rare 360 – to come all the way around to where you started.”

The return to Dallas gave Woods the opportunity to look at the nursing program and take stock of how it was perceived in the community and among health care organizations in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. She found that people were well aware that TWU had a good nursing program that produced strong nurses, but that was where much of the public’s knowledge of TWU ended. Woods became intent on making sure that every organization affiliated with the university knew all about TWU, and that the nursing program was relevant to hospitals, clinics and healthcare organizations.

 “My greatest hope for whomever is going to replace me is that she or he will continue with the strides we’ve made, because TWU is a wonderful school. Our outcomes are impressive, our graduates perform well,” she shares. “The hardest part of leaving TWU is the people in these four walls, as well as the people with whom we’ve created partnerships. The Dallas community and the TWU community have been so very good to me. They have supported my growth in every possible way, and I’m so grateful for that.”

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Page last updated 10:35 AM, July 19, 2018