Chattanooga’s first female and first African American solid waste manager, Roshonda Woods, is working to further her career through the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Born and raised in Dewberry, Georgia, a small town 30 minutes south of Chattanooga, she moved to the city 25 years ago. She has been working for that city for 20 of those years.
She’s been busy from the start. She was one of four individuals to implement Chattanooga’s first 311 line—a non-emergency phone number that people can call to report various types of issues or ask for information from their local government. Five years ago, she became the city’s solid waste manager and now oversees 52 team members.
Woods has to remain adaptable as each day brings new responsibilities. “We are the only department that touches all 75,000 residents that we serve every day, so there is always a new challenge.”
As if serving approximately 75,000 residents isn’t enough, Woods is also the manager of two kids and a husband. Somewhere in between her busy work and home life, she has found the time to pursue her education.
She chose to enroll in UTC’s budding Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Leadership (BAS-AL) program. The BAS-AL is built around working professionals who want to further their education despite busy schedules.
Dr. David W. Rausch, associate dean of the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies and BAS-AL program director, described the program as “a viable path forward for anyone who has started a college education and maintains a desire to finish it, regardless of background or personal motivation.”
The program helps students “develop the skills and knowledge they need to solve problems, communicate effectively, resolve conflict, and assess effectiveness in diverse environments,” said Rausch.
Students come from a variety of backgrounds such as, “community college students who have earned an associate degree and wish to further their education, veterans and service members who want to leverage their existing experience to earn a bachelor’s degree and adult learners who already have years or even decades of career and prior learning experience,” said Rausch.
Woods fits into that final category. After two decades as a working professional, she decided to go back to school partly because of her daughter. “I was constantly preaching the importance of education to my 28-year-old daughter, who has graduated with her master’s, so I felt that I needed to practice what I preach.”
She also sees this degree as the next step in her career.
“For me to get to the next level, I needed to have a degree,” Woods said. “Even though I have the experience, I need that paper to seal the deal.”
She has found that it’s more than just a piece of paper. When she started out, she said she thought, “I’ve been at the city for 20 years, so I know the city’s ins and outs; there is nothing new I can learn.” After a few weeks in the program, she changed her tune. “Boy, was I wrong. There is a lot of information that I’m learning which pertains to my everyday duties, and it is continuously perfecting what I do daily.”
She said she already feels a boost of confidence in her workplace.
“I recently applied for a deputy administrator position…if it had not been for the classes I was taking, I would not have felt the confidence to apply for the position,” Woods said.
Woods is only getting started on her educational journey.
“This program is pulling things out of me that I didn’t know I could do,” she said. “Now, I am definitely considering pursuing my master’s after finishing this program because it seems so much more obtainable.”
She feels that the program is perfectly tailored for her.
“I’m a wife. I’m a mother. I’m a manager. I have a busy life, but the classes are geared toward my life,” she explained. “The classes are online, so I don’t have to drive to campus. There isn’t a set time that I have to be at a computer. I can do my work at 3 a.m. or 3 p.m.”