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Founding faculty member has 50-year career at UNF

Not many people work at the same company for 50 years. Even fewer can say they started when the organization began. Janice Wood has earned both distinctions. Hired as a founding faculty member in 1972, Wood is still on the job at the Florida Institute of Education at UNF, creating curriculum for Florida schools and childcare centers.
Janice Wood standing next to a tree“People ask me all the time, ‘Why are you still there? Why are you still working?’” Wood said. “The answer is that I love what I’m doing … I love learning new things, so I’ve been lucky to still be excited about it.”
Before UNF opened, Wood was recruited from the Duval County Public School District. She was working full time, traveling two days a week to Florida State University to complete her doctorate and raising a new baby. The dean of the College of Education tried twice to bring her to UNF before succeeding. She never imagined that decision would begin a lifelong career of training students to become teachers. As the only faculty member with a specialty in Early Childhood Education, Wood developed UNF’s program from scratch, which she said was both exciting and daunting.
The early years presented unusual challenges, too. Most students had full-time jobs, so classes were offered in the evenings. “It was suggested to us that we wear boots to get out of our cars because a couple of faculty members had been bitten by snakes. There were lots of snakes and critters running all over the place,” she said.
Inside the classroom, the lone teaching tool was an overhead projector. No computers. No internet. No PowerPoints. No videos. The only way to observe teaching methods was to make frequent trips to area schools and childcare centers. And though the process of training teachers has not significantly changed, the mindset has, Wood said. In the 1970s, children learned to read when they went to school. Today, the emphasis is on exposing children to literature, conversations and books from birth. “Now parents realize how important it is that they become involved in the education of their children. That’s a big difference as to what has gone on in the last 50 years in education in general.”
Wood has great praise for the early administrators of the University and described Thomas G. Carpenter as the right personality for the task of building a university, drawing faculty together and having them look forward. She also witnessed the campus milestones as they happened including men’s and women’s cross country as the first athletic teams, each of the new buildings as they were built and the expansion of programs and enrollment.  
So much has changed. “The first students at UNF were upper level and graduate students, and many were older than we were as faculty members,” Wood said. “The average age of the faculty was two years younger than the average age of the students … and they didn’t let us forget how much older they were than us.” Reflecting back over so many memories, Wood is most grateful for the close relationships she shared with other faculty. Many remain friends today. “Over the years, I had several job offers, and I wouldn’t even consider them,” she said. “Most of the core faculty felt the same way.”
Now, after working for all seven of UNF’s presidents, Wood is contemplating retirement in 2023. “I thought it’s a good time to retire at 50 years,” she said. “I’ve loved every minute of it, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else … I know I will miss going on campus each day and doing the work I love.”