Out-of-state student achieves lifelong dream of becoming a Florida Gator

It’s not easy being laid off from a job. Woody Bass knows the feeling after he was let go from his last position as an internet service provider in the healthcare industry. When applying for a new job, he realized that the candidates that were hired over him all had bachelor’s degrees. Although Bass knew his skill set matched the other applicants, what was missing was the degree he never finished. That’s when Bass knew he needed to make the change and finally achieve his dream.

Heading back to college

After Bass graduated high school, he attended a local college in Georgia. At the time, Bass decided to drop out because he was uncertain about his career and life goals. In 2015, Bass attended Georgia State University to continue his studies, but he knew he wanted to fulfill his dreams of finishing his education at the University of Florida.

“I grew up a fan of Florida football because I was originally from Orlando, so getting into UF was something I was always working toward,” Bass said. “My family and co-workers say the only thing I ever wear is orange and blue or something with Gators on it.”

After moving out of Florida, Bass wasn’t sure his dream of becoming a Gator would be possible as his life, career, and home are in Norcross, Georgia, which is five hours away from the Gainesville, Florida campus. That’s when he came across UF Online and realized he can have the flexibility to earn his UF degree right from his home.

This time around, Bass is approaching his classes as an online student with dedication and commitment. “Now that I’ve been accepted to UF, I feel like I have to prove that I belong here,” Bass said. “I want to be the best that I can be.”

Did you know?

Research shows that one third of online students are between the ages of 39 to 54, are first-generation college students, and are returning to school after a break of five or more years.1

Fulfilling the Gator dream as a Public Relations major

Although Bass works full-time as a business analyst, he’s always had a strong interest in public relations. He credits his classes with having helped him take on additional responsibilities at work. The company he works at has even asked him to take on internal communications tasks where Bass can apply the skills he has learned from his coursework.

At 48 years old, Bass’s passion for learning continues to shine through his dedicated work ethic while attending UF. This was obvious to Natalie Asorey, a lecturer in the department of public relations, who had Bass as a student in one of her online social media classes. “Woody is naturally curious, and he always approached online discussions and assignments with a fresh perspective and open mind,” she said. “He not only challenged others’ thinking but his own.”

Bridget Dunbar, Bass’s UF Online academic advisor, still remembers her first conversation with him. “He was so excited to have been accepted and expressed that one of his lifelong goals was not only to get a degree, but to get a degree from the University of Florida specifically. Despite living out-of-state, Woody is one of the biggest Gator fans I have ever (virtually) met!”

Dunbar went on to say, “I am so glad that UF Online has given him the opportunity to bring his talents to the Gator Nation and make his dream of becoming a Gator grad a reality.”

After graduating, Bass wants to use what he’s learned from his degree to volunteer and help his friends, family, and community with any communication needs or projects they may have.

“I was the first in my immediate family to go to college, so my family was very proud of me,” Bass said. “I know the UF name carries some weight in employment circles, so I’m really proud to say I’m a student of the seventh-ranked [university] in the nation.”

With a UF degree in Public Relations, students learn the writing, research, strategy, and communication skills needed to succeed in this growing field. Taught by faculty in the top-ranked College of Journalism and Communications, UF Online’s PR program makes our graduates viable candidates for a wide variety of careers ranging from business to government agencies. Discover what our Public Relations major can do for you by visiting our degrees page.

Notes: 1. Clinefelter, D. L., Aslanian, C. B., & Magda, A. J. (2019). Online college students 2019: Comprehensive data on demands and preferences. Louisville, KY: Wiley edu, LLC