Family Day: Georgian feels like ‘home’ for Wood’s family

For almost as long as Georgian has existed, the Wood’s family has called the college a second home.

Barb Richards led the way in the late 1970s, running non-traditional programs for women and working as a manager for the college’s Co-op Education and Career Success department, including for the Automotive Business School of Canada.

Her daughter, Karen Woods, grew up around Georgian.

Three people dressed formally stand together in front of a blue backdrop that reads #ProudGeorgianGrad.
Sean, Taylor and Karen Woods are each two-time Georgian grads.

She became a two-time alumna and has worked at the college for the last 26 years in various roles, most recently as a Business and Management professor.

Her husband, Sean Woods, is also a two-time graduate of Georgian and is on the college’s program advisory committee for civil engineering.

And then along came their son, Taylor Woods, who is – yet again – a two-time Georgian alumnus and now works as an Alumni Engagement Associate at the college.

In time for Family Day, we recently spoke with Karen and Taylor about how they connect over their shared educational experiences and what Georgian means to their family.

Tell us more about your personal connection to Georgian.

Karen: Taylor grew up on the Barrie Campus. Before he was born, my students did a pool to see how much the baby was going to weigh and the gender. He was involved at Georgian before he was even born. After he was born, I used to push him in a stroller around to all the auto shows and everything, or even at the old Georgian College cafeteria Christmas party.

A person with short, white hair and wearing a purple sweater, smiles.
Barb Richards worked at Georgian from the late 1970s to the late 1990s.

And my mom, not only did she inspire me by her work at Georgian, but I remember when I was shopping or out in the community with my mom, so many people would come up to her and thank her for having such a positive impact on their lives. I still run into grads from Georgian’s automotive programs who ask me how my mom is doing, and I have to tell her they say, “Hi.” Many students over the years called her mom and that always made me proud.

I think our experiences as a family at Georgian are also why we are so relatable to potential and current students. We’ve been there, done that. We studied and work at Georgian, plus we got involved in extracurriculars. Taylor played intramural sports, and I was a varsity volleyball player. We’ve always been involved at Georgian.

Three people take a selfie together sitting in stadium seats at a Toronto Blue Jays game.
Karen, Sean and Taylor Woods at a Georgian Alumni Blue Jays game.

What drew you to Georgian?

Taylor: It just made sense – being from Barrie and going to school here. I was familiar with the campus and how to get around it. I was looking at Humber and Seneca colleges at the time, too, and I remember seeing virtual tours of them and was like, “Not a chance,” because they are so, so big. I came to Open House for Georgian sat and talked with a couple of profs that my mom knew and it just kind of clicked.

Karen: For me, I lived around the corner from the college, so it was an easy choice. I’m a very practical person, so I was like, “Why wouldn’t I live at home?” I had older friends who had been paying all this money to go away to school, and they were going so far in debt that I didn’t want that to happen to me. Also, back when I did the Law and Security Administration program (now Honours Bachelor of Police Studies), we had to be interviewed and accepted. I met the retired police officers that were teachers and I saw that Georgian is a special place. It was about the people – I learned a lot and connected with great people.

What made you want to work at Georgian?

Taylor: When I graduated, I got a four-month contract working at Georgian as a student recruitment specialist, and I just loved it. I did presentations and went to events. I liked how it was different every day. After that contract, I got another one that was events related, but then the COVID-19 pandemic happened and there were no in-person events… So, I worked elsewhere for a while until a new position came up at Georgian – my current job as Alumni Engagement Associate. It was the right opportunity for my career, plus Georgian offers great benefits and a good work-life balance.

Karen: I was a trainer in car dealerships, and I was like, “Why can’t I take the training that I’m delivering in car dealerships into a classroom?” Georgian’s always felt like home to me. I wanted to give back what I got out of coming to Georgian. I think that’s why I wanted to come back because I had such positive experiences, and when I taught my first class, I was like, “Ding! This is exactly what I want to do. I’m going to get paid to do this job? This is fantastic.”

Three people dressed casually stand together in front of a blue backdrop reading #ProudGeorgianGrad. They hold signs reading #TeamGeorgian.
Karen was able to hand Taylor his diploma on stage at his Georgian convocation.

What are some of your favourite memories at Georgian so far?

Taylor: I love when students have reached out, thanking me for connecting them to Georgian back when I was a recruiter. I had lunch the other day with one of them, who’s the Automotive School of Business Student of the Year. It has been neat to connect years after first meeting him to see where he’s gone and kind of mentor him.

Karen: I love graduation. I even got to give Taylor his diploma on stage at graduation. That was unbelievable. I have amazing memories from teaching over the years, too. I can still remember the very first class I taught at Georgian. I had some pretty amazing students in that very first class, including John Montgomery, who is an Olympic gold medalist. I used to be really involved with Georgian Auto Show. I have so many positive memories, it’s hard to pick just one. It’s all been amazing. But still, at the start of every semester I still get excited, and I hope the students are going to be awesome – and they always are. 

Two people stand outside on a balcony with a picturesque background of European ruins.
Karen and Taylor Woods on a Georgian Europe Trip.

What’s your advice for anyone considering studying or working at Georgian?

Taylor: If you are away from home, or even still living at home, there are great opportunities to make new friends with sports while you’re at Georgian. Get a good student experience and get involved with intramural sports and other activities. You need to have that balance of studying and having a little bit of fun.

Karen: Connect to different people that have gone to Georgian and talk to them about their experiences. I don’t know too many people that graduate from Georgian that don’t speak about the collage in a really positive way. As well, come to an Open House and feel what it’s like to be on campus. College is a great way to get your feet wet and learn more about what you want in life.

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