Alex Wood is quite familiar with recruiting students.
Wood, the coordinator of multicultural recruitment for South Dakota State University, has been at State for nearly two years but has a background in recruiting dating from when he was trying to determine which college to attend.
After graduating from Winston-Salem State University with a bachelor’s degree in history, he decided he wanted to pursue coaching. His father, the current head football coach at Florida A&M University, inspired him to coach football. Before coming to SDSU, Wood coached at Wayne State College and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“Even as a coach I was always told, ‘do it for the right reasons … it’s about the kids, it’s not about you’ … that comes right back over here to what I do now,” he said.
Wood visits high schools in Sioux Falls, Omaha and the Twin Cities, and reservations in South Dakota and Nebraska.
“For me, it’s easy because as a college football coach, I traveled and recruited all the time,” Wood said.
Wood does more than recruit students to come to SDSU as he tries to ensure the students he visits are ready for college. Wood uses programs like College Possible and AVID, programs that provide resources to students who face challenges such as being unable to afford an education, being a first-generation college student or getting help raising their ACT score.
“They enjoy the fact that we give them a lot of information, but that we are willing to listen,” he said.
One of Wood’s current goals is to increase the presence of students from programs like College Possible and AVID at SDSU as well as providing on-campus recruitment events for students from diverse backgrounds. He believes the programs would increase the comfort level for students and help ease that transition, which could allow more students to attend college.
“I feel that when we have a lot more students, from a diverse group of backgrounds, on campus to see what we have to offer, they will consider that SDSU is a good option,” Wood said.
One of the greatest challenges he faces is trying to get potential students to understand the feelings of what it is like being on campus and in the Brookings community.
“It’s challenging in that sense that they have a predisposed idea of what they think,” he said. “We’re [SDSU] not as far away as you think, and we are not as isolated as what you think. It doesn’t have to be that Twin Cities, metropolitan-area feeling, one can be at SDSU.”
Seeing students he recruited attend SDSU and finding the right fit is a great feeling, Wood said. He likes being able to provide an opportunity for students to succeed. Wood enjoys attending the Black Student Alliance Step Show. He said it helps show other schools, which come to perform, that it is possible to have different experiences at State.
“Students come from all over campus, not just students of color,” he said.
The show is part of a series of events in February for African-American History Month. The Multicultural Center, which coordinates the series, hosts events that highlight other cultures throughout the semester. Wood said events and discussions like these are beneficial for faculty and students.
“Whether you are within that cultural group or not, it gives you a lot of insight to that person you maybe sitting next to in class and what they’re capable of doing and will do in the future,” he said. “You have a better glimpse of their challenges and as to why they may approach their job a certain way and it brings a greater appreciation, in my opinion."