Monday, November 26, 2018

Nat Wooding – Research Analyst

Reynolds Office of Strategic Planning & Institutional Effectiveness

Where did you grow up and what was
it like?

I grew up in Halifax Co (Virginia, not that one in North Carolina) where my father was a country doctor. He had a one man practice and there were no such things as answering services so people routinely called our home or even showed up at the front door. It made for an interesting childhood. Scene: teenage boy answers front door. The man says, “My wife has just had a baby. Can you come out and cut the birth cord." No, I didn’t.

How long have you worked for Reynolds
and what brought you here?

I spent about 37 years in Dominion’s environmental group “counting fish” meaning that I managed the data collected by the water quality field group. When I retired from there in 2010 I wasn’t ready to stop working and after a year some networking paid off and I started here where I count students. The major difference in the two tasks is that before, we could use nets and other methods to immobilize our subjects, but those techniques are frowned on in an academic environment.

Please tell us about your role with the OSPIE? 
I’m part-time and work with a full time analyst and together we gather information on the student body and the college both for regular reports such as can be found on the OIE site as well as ad hoc requests where some specific bit of information is needed. I also prepare and analyze surveys that are sent to students, faculty, and graduates. The recently deployed 360 surveys are an example of these. 

I understand you have a BS in Biology and an MS in Zoology. How did you transition to a career in research and data analysis?
When I started grad school at NC State I was recruited by a professor who ran a wildlife statistics group and who was looking for biologists who were willing to work with numbers. I had taken a lot of math so he spotted my application. Under his direction we worked up data collected by biologists from fish and game departments in the southeast. I left State soon after the enactment of the Clean Water Act and electric utilities were scrambling to meet the new regulations and were hiring a slew of biologists who were catching lots of fish and other critters. Data aren’t much good in file drawers so I was hired to get them onto punch cards and then reports.  I was working with biological data so I had an understanding of the basic material that a programmer/analyst hired off the street wouldn’t possess. 

What do you like most about your job?
Being able to deliver results that would be extremely difficult for faculty and staff to produce given the demands on their time and the tools available to them.

What has been the greatest challenge in your job?
Learning how student data files are related and which to trust. 

What is your favorite activity outside of your work at Reynolds?
While I have a number of interests, these days I probably spend most of my time working on the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Memories project where volunteers transcribe documents held by the library. The project is about four years old and we have completed about 60,000 documents. We only have about 1,940,000 to go.

What do like most about Richmond?
As an adult, I have always liked living in the state capitol where so much is readily accessible. And, by picking a direction as I leave the driveway, it is so easy to get to so many different places and environments such as DC or Ocracoke.

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
I think that issue’s moot since about the last thing on earth that I’d do would be to buy a ticket. I’m not into driving ridiculously expensive cars or taking cruises so I’m simply not lured by the hype of a large pot.