One of the Good Ones: Antonio Woodard, Iowa City MSW Program

Antonio Woodard, smiling with arms crossed in front of North Hall and School of Social Work banner
October 8, 2019
Iowa City, IA

Antonio “Tone” Woodard is in his fourth year as a sprinter for the Hawkeye Track & Field team—“one of the premier sprinters in the country” according to hawkeyesports.com—and he’s in his first year pursuing a Master of Social Work degree in the UI School of Social Work.

Born in Florida, Tone moved with his family to California in the 7th grade, and from that point forward excelled as an athlete in multiple sports. He first heard about the University of Iowa from Brittany Brown, a teammate in his summer track and field club in San Bernadino County, who herself was a standout during her time at Iowa and had already committed to Iowa when Tone was looking for the right school.

“I never thought that I would come to Iowa. To be honest, I couldn’t have told you where Iowa was on the map.”

He went on five official visits at five different schools, most of them closer to home. The University of Iowa was the last visit, and he was skeptical. Still, he decided to give it a shot.

When he visited Iowa, it clicked. “When I came here, just immediately I was like, ‘This is IT. I didn’t want to leave.’

“Coming from California, where the population is huge, to a relatively small city in the Midwest, it surprised me and shifted my perspective. Iowa is underrated and underestimated, especially here in Iowa City. People are so genuinely nice and warm. They made it clear that I was welcome here, and they were ready to support me from day one.

It took more than “Iowa Nice” to bring Tone to the University of Iowa, though.

“I also wanted to go a university where the academics matched the athletics. That balance was really important to me, and Iowa has that,” he explained.

Tone wants to pursue a career in the FBI or other law enforcement agency—following in the footsteps of his mom, a private security agent protecting banks from fraud in Los Angeles, and his godfather, who’s retired from the LAPD. His goal led him to earn an undergrad degree in Criminology from the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and he minored in Theatre Arts.

He chose to pursue a master’s degree in social work to expand his thinking about criminal justice and, ultimately, make him a better law enforcement professional.

“Police officers, or anyone who deals with people in a law enforcement setting, are kind of like social workers,” he explains.

“The good ones are, anyway,” he adds with a laugh.

With an easy, wide smile and often humming to himself, Tone says his mom affectionately calls him “Hummingbird” because he always has a song on his lips. Though he has stepped down as president of the University of Iowa’s student a capella singing group, Intersection, to focus on grad school and a strong finish to his track & field career, music continues to be an important part of his life.

“It hasn’t always been easy to balance so many opportunities here at Iowa. I’ve had to learn the art of gracefully and tactfully saying no, and prioritizing the right balance of accomplishment and self-care. We’ve got to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone else.”

“I’ll follow the opportunities wherever they lead,” he says, admitting that there aren’t a lot of FBI jobs locally. He feels that Iowa has prepared him well to succeed wherever he goes, and he looks forward to continuing to expand his worldview and skills as he learns in the Master of Social Work program.

“Coming to Iowa helped me loosen up and allow myself to experience new things. It has made me braver, less afraid to take risks.”

“I really enjoy my classes so far, and my classmates are such a great people. We study together, and I feel like we are committed to being successful together. I can see us being lifelong friends and resources for each other.”