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July 22, 2010

ULM’s Director of Media Relations featured in local business publication

When Laura Woodard came to the ULM campus as publications director in August 2005, she knew the climate would be considerably different from the milder South Dakota summers to which she had grown accustomed.

Little did she know she’d be arriving just in time for Hurricane Katrina to ravage south Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf Coast states.

But, just like the hearty Louisianans for whom she has profound respect, Woodard dug in and refused to let the stormy start chase her away.

Since her promotion to director of media relations at the University of Louisiana at Monroe in January 2006, she has thrived. In fact, her hard work and dedication to ULM earned her a spot in the June 2010 issue of Delta Business featuring Ouachita Parish’s top young professionals under 40-years-old.

Dr. Don Skelton, ULM’s vice president for university advancement and external affairs, said Woodard’s achievement is noteworthy for several reasons.

“I can think of no one more deserving of this recognition,” he said.

“While there is a learning curve associated with any professional move, her prior experiences in the newspaper and publication areas had prepared her to shorten that curve significantly. However, I consider the key to her success as ULM’s Media Relations Director to be her sincerity and passion for each assignment she tackles. She is truly the head cheerleader for every ULM faculty and staff member and I congratulate her on a hard earned recognition.”

Those faculty and students who have been featured on the ULM homepage will recognize Woodard since she helps coordinate, along with Webmaster Rob Glaze, the popular piece that acquaints the campus family with one another.

Now, the tables have turned and she has answered similar questions about her own life:

I earned my degree ... from South Dakota State University. My parents, Chuck and Sally, younger siblings Ryan and Andrea, and baby nephew, Jack, all live in Brookings, S.D.

When I think of my childhood, I ... think of long stretches of eastern South Dakota highways blanketed with blooming wildflowers. I fondly recall lazy afternoons spent at my family's lake cabin, and wonderful days on end with my grandparents in a tiny town not far from where we lived. As a teenager I was a camp counselor and eventually a camp director in western South Dakota, specifically, the Black Hills—a stark contrast to the prairie. Spearfish Canyon, Roughlock Falls, and Pactola Reservoir are a few of my favorite spots in the world.

The most surprising thing about coming to Louisiana is ... I feel at home. I grew up with a southern mother and four southern aunts, all of whom are charismatic, loving, expressive, strong and animated. Whenever they visited our home in Brookings, my friends were always entertained. I figured that side of my family was sort of an anomaly, but after my first few days at ULM, I realized that's the charm of the South. No wonder so many movies are filmed here!

A challenge I faced was battling an illness shortly after moving to Monroe. It was then that I witnessed the character of my co-workers and colleagues. One gracious woman delivered a huge amount of food to my home, and several others followed suit. In fact, when I traveled to MD Anderson Hospital in Houston for treatment two very special co-workers sent me with a maroon and gold Warhawk blanket. The first thing my doctor said was, "Hey, didn't ya'll beat Alabama this year?"

Something I am very honored about is ... Having worked with the president, and having a boss that cares enough to call my home in South Dakota, ensuring I had a safe trip.

I love my job because ... I am promoting what betters us as humans and as a society—higher education. Every day at my job is different. I am so enthusiastic about ULM's community outreach, faculty research and excellent academic programs, it feels natural to communicate that good news with the media. The importance of higher education was instilled in me at a young age. My dad, an English professor, brought me to one of his creative writing classes when I was five years old. He sat me on the table and asked his class to write about me. I'm sure they felt no pressure!

My favorite place at ULM is Starbucks! If I listed anything else, my co-workers would call me out on it. I remember the first time I drove up to the ULM campus in 2005. I was already missing the natural beauty of my home state when I saw the bayou running through ULM's campus. I still think it's one of the most unique campuses anywhere.

In my free time, I love to ... read, talk to my family, play with my dogs and research my ancestry. My family doesn't know very much about my maternal grandfather's biological family. We do know that he spent much of his childhood in Pollock, La., and after discovering new historical records, I drove there to learn more.

One thing most people don't know about me ... is that my grandmother grew up in Monroe; she lived only a couple of blocks from our university. We were very close, and I feel a connection to her when I drive through her old neighborhood each day.

I tell my co-workers that ... I appreciate them. I cannot take full credit for any single project; everything we produce is a collaboration of some sort. Our contributions are not limited to our job titles.

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