Forward with NACCE

Always Move Forward and Never Give Up! The Story of Paralympian and Educator Dr. Ãndrēa Woodson-Smith

August 27, 2021 Dr. Ãndrēa Woodson-Smith Season 2021 Episode 33
Forward with NACCE
Always Move Forward and Never Give Up! The Story of Paralympian and Educator Dr. Ãndrēa Woodson-Smith
Show Notes Transcript

Join a Paralympian and a Professor at North Carolina Central University Dr. Andrea Woodson-Smith and host Dr. Rebecca Corbin as they discuss the 2020 Paralympic Games kicking off this week in Tokyo as well as Andrea's personal story of perseverance as she makes her way forward as both an athlete and an educator. 

As you watch the Paralympics compete in Tokyo, take a close look at their logo: three Agitos encircling a central point symbolizing motion, bringing athletes together from all corners of the world to compete. The symbol also reflects the Paralympic motto, “Spirit in Motion,” representing the strong will of every Paralympian: always moving forward and never giving up.

NACCE Meets 

Have you joined our online community NACCE Meets? We are excited to have a platform dedicated to our members to network, connect, exchange ideas and support your entrepreneurial initiatives. Join the community at naccemeets.nacce.com

Join us on the second Wednesday of every month at 12PM Eastern to set yourself up to be productive and impactful with NACCE by your side. We'll share about events, ways to get involved and we'll have an open conversation featuring questions you're asking or problems you're facing, crowdsourcing solutions, and answers. 

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

Welcome to Making Our Way Forward, a podcast where we share compelling life stories and learn from the experience of everyday entrepreneurs. At NACCE, we celebrate diversity and invite you to join the conversation. As we talk to entrepreneurs and leaders from all walks of life. We hope that by telling their stories, we bring you inspiration, empower you to take action, and ignite entrepreneurship in your community. Welcome to this episode of Making Our Way Forward. We're delighted to have a special guest with us today that has quite a story to tell. We found her right in the home of NACCE's headquarters right here in the Triangle. It's my pleasure to welcome Andrea Woodson-Smith to the program. And let's just jump right into it. Andrew, why don't you just begin by sharing how you became acquainted with NACCE, I guess, literally how you bumped into our producer, which got you here today.

Dr. Andrea Woodson-Smith:

All right. Well, we were at the Post Office in Apex. And I have a tattoo on my arm that represents the Olympics and the Paralympics from London 2012. And she noticed that and came up to me and asked me about that tattoo. And then we've talked a little bit and then she asked me about joining into the podcast, to speak about education, because I told her a little bit about my background, being a Professor at North Carolina Central University. And she asked me to, if I would be interested in participating in a podcast to talk about my experiences as a Paralympian and as a Professor.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

Yeah, that's, that's amazing. We've talked about that a lot on this podcast and the work that we do at NACCE, we refer to them as meaningful collisions. And what we do is try to put ourselves out there and let the serendipity of experience and we know that through education. So there's so much to talk about with your story. And I guess, you know, I want to get into later talking about historically black colleges and universities, because you shared a little bit about your parents, and I shared with you how some people don't even know what the term HBCU is. But I will tell you, and our producer, my co-host, Jeff Smith, and I were having a conversation, several hours before, Natalia ran into you, and we were talking about the Olympics and how excited we were, we were talking about our aspirational guests on this program. Right now we're in close to 350 cities in 27 countries around the world. And so we wrote down on a piece of paper that we were hoping to interview somebody that either was or is in the Olympics. So here we are with that. And with that, tell us please how that even began in your life? What? How did you get into the Olympics and tell us a bit about the Paraolympics and what you're doing today?

Dr. Andrea Woodson-Smith:

Okay, so I really originated with the Paralympics through working with my PhD program and adaptive physical education. And we the objective of that course was to meet different people who were involved in adaptive sports. And we spoke to one of a former USA women's wheelchair basketball player who was in Dallas, Texas, and she ran one of the women's wheelchair basketball teams there. And so we went to interview her. My professor told her that I had arthritis in both hips, and she said I was eligible to play to participate. And Pam Fontaine, who was a former USA women's wheelchair basketball player, asked her, well, how can we make this work? And so my professor allowed me one Monday out of every month to go and practice with the team. And so once I did that, they the team sent me to a summer camp. And then from there, I got recognized by USA coaches, and then it was requested or suggested that I try out for the USA team. And so I tried out for the USA team in 2003 was alternate, and then made the 2014 and was removed due to health issues and then came back for the 2012 Paralympic Games. So it's been an amazing experience. I miss it. I wish I could come back for 2028 when it's here in the US, but who knows it's up in the air.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

Yeah, I see over your shoulder...A lot of people are listening to this episode, but we're going to release maybe a video clip I can see some of the medals behind you and thinking about that experience...and there, there probably are people out there that are listening that have maybe some physical disabilities that are athletes. If people wanted to learn more about that and maybe learn from your experience and either support it or potentially participate or have a family member participate, how would they even

Dr. Andrea Woodson-Smith:

one, I would just put in "adaptive sports", do a Google search and just put in adaptive sports, you can put in "national adaptive sports" for the national teams. But if you just put do a simple Google search and put "an adaptive sports near me", it will give you a listing of different recreation, opportunities, collegiate opportunities, and then you'll be also be able to see what other adaptive sports are out there. Because basketball wheelchair basketball is not the only sport, there's a ton of sports, every sport that is made for an individual without a disability, there's a sport for a person with a disability. So they're out there, you just have to search. It changed my life, I became a world traveler due to participating in the Paralympics, and participating in wheelchair basketball, specifically. So it has completely changed my life, my family is pretty much created due to wheelchair basketball, my husband plays wheelchair basketball as well. And my kids are involved, you know, anytime that we travel, so they know about the sports and the different sports that are out there, find the opportunity, it's life changing. It makes you more confident it builds character, just a lot of different positive aspects of your life will change.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

Yeah, and I see you're also US Department of State Sports Envoy . And what is what is that like, that sounds exciting.

Dr. Andrea Woodson-Smith:

That, thatis, it's a wonderful opportunity to be able to go to other countries and talk about, for me specifically, I focus on participation of females into different physical activity, different sports. And then also I look at engaging individuals with disabilities into sport and physical activity. And we focus on working on the policies we try to implement, show them different strategies on how the government itself can implement these, these particular policies really enforce the policies so that people with disabilities have accessibility in their countries.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

I love that. So I mean, it's really impactful, your story of, you know, having arthritis in your hips, and being an athlete, you know, you could have looked at that as as really dispiriting, you know, life changing in the opposite direction. And that's a lot of the work that we do here at NACCE and on the podcast is to try to help people to think about things differently. Think about challenge. And, you know, we were all brought here, you know, to this Earth to do special work. And clearly you found yours and and it's just a testament to who you are. And literally, you have it written through body art. So we never would have found you had you not done that. So that's a whole other podcast, we can talk about that. But I want to talk a little bit about higher education. And you had shared with us earlier about your parents and the journey that got you to North Carolina Central. And, perhaps, you could start and talk a little bit about what is an HBCU, and how that impacted your experience. And some of what you do today, and why that's important in your life as an academic.

Dr. Andrea Woodson-Smith:

Sure. So an HBCU is a Historically Black College University. And they were created for African Americans to be able to attend a university or college at that particular time. And it continues on to this day to allow a lot of African Americans who may be first generation of college students an opportunity to gain that higher education. So typically, the cost of tuition is lower. The ability to get into that University is a little bit better. And then you also get to experience the lifestyle, which is a little bit different than maybe your typical, predominantly white institutions. The lifestyle is a little bit different, and you celebrate the lightness of your student population, your faculty, your staff, and everyone has that similar experience somewhere within their family line. And so it's just a it's just an incredible opportunity for those who may not even believe that they have that opportunity to attend a university to provide them with that opportunity to attend a university. And so for my experience, both of my parents attended an HBCU Virginia State University and actually asked my brother and I, if we wanted to attend. And at that time, I had no idea what a HBCU it was. And a lot of people don't know what a HBCU is, and the significance of those universities. But now we're starting to see more HBCUs in the media, through the platforms of our NBA athletes. So they're going back into school and supporting the HBCUs by attending those universities. We're actually having a lot of athletes who are leaving your big division one universities and starting to attend HBCU. So you're going to start to see more and hear more about HBCUs in the near future.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

Yeah, that's so that's so interesting, Andrea. And I'll tell you a fun fact that I learned recently, we hired our next staff member that's going to work out of our office here in North Carolina, and on his resume, his name is Josh, he's going to take on a Maker Fellow role. He attended North Carolina Central University. And so I naturally assumed falsely that he was a man of color. And so we went to jump on the interview. And lo and behold, that is not what he looks like. He's, he's not black or brown. And he was telling us how he intentionally chose North Carolina Central, because of the academic programming and and didn't realize the rich experience that he would have as a white man attending that. So he's got a really interesting background, and I want you to meet him. He's going to be coming on board here in a few weeks. But his background is music. So he wants to create a nonprofit to help fellow musicians. And that's about all I know about it at this point. But it just goes to show you how much we don't know, I learned a new term, it was either from you or from somebody else recently. pw II, a predominantly white institution, and I had never really heard that before. But I knew about MSIs and an HBCU. So it just shows you perhaps the the elevated awareness around these issues. And I'm excited that we can talk about those things I had a chance to visit your university a couple of years ago, with one of the major projects that NACCE is involved in which serves middle school boys and girls on Community College and HBCU campuses. And I was blown away I shared with you, it's probably not that this is the most important thing. But the best food that I've ever had in a cafeteria and the people were so welcoming. So I can see how people really, really love that. Let's pivot with the time that we have left, I'd love to talk a little bit about the pandemic, which is weighing on all of us. It's it's been To be honest, exhausting, and we're constantly pivoting worrying about our families. I would love it if you would share a little bit about how you and your family and your colleagues have made your way forward through the pandemic, what have you learned? What? What kind of things might you share with our audience?

Dr. Andrea Woodson-Smith:

Sure, I think the important thing to realize with the pandemic is that there may be mental health concerns. When you're isolated for such a long period of time, there's always this want and need to be able to have that physical contact with other people or you know, to be in the space of other people. With the pandemic, it provided an opportunity for easier access to people through zone, different types of online media. But I think it has increased so fast and so much that people are now starting to feel the impact of that and are becoming extremely burned out. tired. I think emotions are, you know, elevated as far as being angry and depressed. I think that's on the extreme side at this moment. And then with the stressor of maybe a shutdown, a possible shutdown or everyone going back not necessarily a full shutdown, but this just that stress. And so far, I know that I went through that personally, and I'm still going through that, as you know, I want to be out in the public. I want to be back at school, and then you get there and it's, I really don't want to be here. I want to go back to my home. I want to go back to my home. But you know, you have to take everything in stride. Take it day by day, make sure that you're taking care of yourselves. Breathe. It's very important. Yes, breathe, take some meditation, all of that to be able to, you know, bring those anxiety levels down and share your experiences. Don't be afraid to talk about the struggles that come out of this pandemic. I know that you know when I talk to some of the athletes and they're stressed over I'm having to work so hard. And then now, to that point where I'm where I'm at the Paralympics or the Olympics, and I'm exhausted. And the same thing with students, you know, going from online being comfortable with online, and now we're going to go back to tradition. I don't know how to handle that. I haven't been around people, I haven't had that social interaction for a long time. How do we handle that? And so just being able to talk about that and share your experiences, I think it's the most important part of dealing with the pandemic. That's such a,

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

I think it's really leaning into empathy, and it doesn't matter, I should say to Dr. Andrea Woodson-Smith, I mean, you've, you obviously have had experiences that most people have not had, but when you get down to the root of humanity, I agree with you, I exactly your experience, and I'm not an Olympic athlete, people can tell that, you know, that when they take a look at me, but I, you know, I feel that too, because I feel like as leaders, you know, certainly with your students, and I feel that with my employees, and also my family, I'm scared to death that one of them is going to get sick, and and it impacts my own mental health, because I think about how many keep them safe, but at the same time, you can't shield people from everything, you know, their own decisions. And, you know, it's important that we don't overly focus on things that, you know, terrorists away from the joy in life. So maybe that would be a good point to to end is for you to talk about what does bring you joy in life, what are you hopeful about, because there are, of course, all of these struggles, there's uncertainty, there's ambiguity and all of this. But you know, just share with us a little bit about, you know, on a daily basis, some of those things that do bring you joy, and what you are most helpful about

Dr. Andrea Woodson-Smith:

Sure, I think, for me, my joy comes from my children, I have two adopted teenager boys, and, and to see how far they've come in such a short period of time, and to see their small successes here and there. That's what brings me joy. I brag about them all the time, to my colleagues and my friends. Because at the beginning, it was very challenging to say, I have nothing to brag about with them. But now I have everything to brag about. So you know, going through the pandemic helped one tremendously, because he was able to go virtual. And so, you know, I think that's one of the positives is that it gives you that option for students specifically or and family and faculty, that gives you the option to, if you're maybe you're not comfortable being in a classroom setting, maybe you're not comfortable being around people, and it gives you the option to be in your own, you know, kind of asylum, and do and become very successful at doing that. Or maybe you're not very good at being an isolated situation, and you need that person to person contact. So it opens that door to be, you know, to have that opportunity to choose which way you want to go. And I think you know, that alone has brought joy into my household, that they have been able to have success, whether they're small or big successes, they're still success within my family. And that's what really brings me joy.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

That's great. And I have to agree with you 100% on that, too. And I know as, as you know, also a mother too, and spend a lot of time in higher ed and, you know, students and our children have different abilities, and some have great ability. And some, it's the small wins. And I have two that are like that on both on either end. And I just celebrate the big things and the small things. But to be honest, sometimes it's the small things that are important, you get up and you try. And that's more important than getting a 4.0 or winning any kind of award. And it's something that I tell kind of my younger colleagues and people who are earlier in the parent journey with little kids is I think, well sometimes when you have children that have health issues, or they have learning disabilities and things like that, you learn that that is a blessing. You learn that at an earlier time and I agree with you, this whole experience that we've all lived through, I think has reminded us of really the humanity and the joyfulness that can exist and you know, cloudy days. So, I know, August is when the para Olympics begins. So tell us if people want to watch it. Can they watch it online? Can they tune in or those who may want to support it? So let's just end on that quick note. I have a call to action here.

Dr. Andrea Woodson-Smith:

Sure thing definitely tune in to the Paralympics. They're going to be aired on NBC Sports. You can also look watch them on the Olympic channel and rhen I believe Peacock will have it. And then if you prescribe, subscribe to YouTube, the Paralympics on YouTube, they'll have it there as well. There's plenty of schedules out if you check on NBC Sports or paralympics.org, you'll be able to get the full schedule of every single sport that's out there.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

Right "Spirit in Motion", right? Yes. And that's a perfect model for that. So I want to thank you Dr. Andrea Woodson-Smith for being with us today. And thank you for brightening my day I you can see the sun on the video clip that's pouring through my window, but it's more so pouring through your spirit. So thank you for that. I wish everybody who's listening around the world, a wonderful day and do something good today. Google and look up, learn more about the Paralympics. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Jeff Smith:

Thank you so much for joining us. We hope the listening to this podcast will help you to explore the many ways we might define entrepreneurship. Join us every other Wednesday for more episodes as we celebrate opportunity. learn from one another and grow together. Subscribe to this podcast connect with us on social media, and learn more about today's speakers at nacce.com. We look forward to making our way forward together with you.

Dr. Rebecca Corbin:

Have you heard about our latest book IMPACT Ed, how Community College entrepreneurship creates equity and prosperity. This is our roadmap for building back better in 50 states and globally. In each chapter, we share the inspiring stories of everyday entrepreneurs and explain how community colleges play a crucial role in their success. Visit us at nacce.com/impacted to order your copy now and join us in this work.