Abigail “Abby” Wood is a familiar face across campus. As the executive assistant to Ed Synakowski, vice president for research, she must communicate and juggle full schedules to set up meetings with the president, provost, deans, department chairs, and faculty in other colleges and departments at UNLV.
It’s a challenging position but Wood makes it look effortless.
“I love interacting with people,” she said. “I am a people person and being able to learn about the research and the lives of the different faculty, administrative, and classified members we have at UNLV has to be the most satisfying part of my job. They all have such unique stories and with each conversation I get to know everyone a little bit better.”
In addition to working full time, Wood brings her passion for higher education and her running shoes to campus. If you are an early starter at UNLV there is a good chance you’ll see her as she races by long before the workday begins.
What inspired you to come to UNLV?
I’ve worked at UNLV for 6.5 years. I’m a Las Vegas native and UNLV has always been a big part of my life, so when the opportunity to work here presented itself I jumped on it! I started my career here as the administrative assistant for student life technology and student life maintenance where I had the opportunity to meet so many fantastic people! I transitioned to the Division of Research in 2019. Before coming to UNLV, I worked in residential management and HOA management for several years.
Tell us about a time you were daring.
I was a wildland firefighter for about three years in my early 20s. I fought wildland fires in Nevada, California, and Utah and it was such an exciting adventure. I loved being out there working hard and doing something that mattered. I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. There is nothing like working a fire line and being on the front lines! I learned a lot about working hard and giving it your all.
In addition to working full time, you are also a student at UNR. What are your academic goals and what inspires you to continue your education?
I earned my BA in psychology from UNLV in 2019. Currently, I am working toward my master's in public health and expect to graduate in May 2022. Mental health has always been a passion of mine, and there is a big need for more services and programs aimed toward this field. I feel that getting an MPH will help me further my knowledge of working within the community to create resources and programs geared at increasing access to mental health services and needs. After a short break, I am hoping to continue my education by earning my Ph.D. here at UNLV.
What is your favorite hobby?
I enjoy running on campus in the early morning hours. I like to get my daily run in before going into the office. I combine my love of running with another favorite hobby of mine: reading. I have been an avid reader for my entire life and I will read any genre. When I go for a run, I am usually listening to a book on Audible while putting miles under my feet. I love imagining the characters and often get lost in the story. Being able to combine my two favorite hobbies makes the run that much more enjoyable. Over the years I have run in several half marathons, 10ks, and fun runs. I am currently training for my next race in February at the Rock and Roll half marathon here in Vegas.
What would someone be surprised to learn about you?
I have a lot of animals and reptiles as pets. Currently, I have three dogs (two pugs and one mastiff), six chickens, four chameleons, four snakes, two bearded dragons, two tree frogs, two leopard geckos, and one turtle! We love having them all around the house and each of their tanks have bio setups that include live plants and materials. They are a lot of fun to watch. We call our house “the reptile zoo” since we have special enclosures all over the place.
How do you feel about the Raiders move to Las Vegas?
I am a lifelong Raiders fan so going to games is an amazing experience for me. I have a lot of energy so you can usually see me jumping up and down and high-fiving all the fans around me. I have season tickets in the black hole so getting to be around all the other fans is so exciting.
What is the most “Vegas” thing that you do with your family?
We go to the different conventions that are hosted in Las Vegas. We love going for the fan conventions and dressing up as our favorite characters or attending a gaming convention where we learn about our favorite games. It’s a lot of fun being able to participate without having to travel away from Las Vegas and it’s the only time we go to the Strip!