First-generation student returns to give young scientists a boost

Bryan Woosley ’92 enjoyed a homecoming of sorts in February when he returned to Cullowhee to act as a judge in the Western Regional Science Fair.

More than 600 students in grades three through 12 attend the fair each year, with about 200 students from 16 counties competing at the annual two-day event, held in WCU’s Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

Woosley (above) is a civilian scientist at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Ind., where he supports soldiers through the design, manufacture, testing and evaluation of military-specific components. He also is a lieutenant commander in the United States Naval Reserve.

Woosley happily accepted the travel assignment as one of a team of science fair judges. “It is an amazing privilege for me to return to a region of my home state that means so much to me,” he said.

Woosley was a first-generation college student and N.C. Teaching Fellow at WCU. “I fell in love with WCU the minute I first stepped on campus. I felt at home when I was there, and I still do,” he said. After majoring in science education with a chemistry concentration, he went on to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry from the University of Georgia. “I did not realize the benefit of coming to WCU at the time, but the chemistry/physics faculty of Roger Bacon, Richard Berne, Gary Poole, Frank Prochaska and Royce Woosley, to whom I am only related through Moses, as he would announce at department functions, invested their time in the students like no other school I know,” Woosley said. “Only in an environment such as this, in my opinion, can a first-generation student begin to consider pursuing an advanced degree.”