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#WhyIChoseEducation: ‘I’m Really Focused on Finding Untapped Skills and Getting Individuals in Jobs for Social and Economic Mobility,’ Says Lance Gooden ’22EDD

Lance Gooden

This is part of a monthly “Why I Chose Education” series in which NC State College of Education alumni, students, faculty and staff share why they chose education. 

Watching his mother serve as an advocate for underserved students in Vernamfield, Jamaica, Lance Gooden ’22EDD developed a passion for increasing educational success for all learners within the field of education. 

Reflecting on the work his mom did and the experiences and support he received during his time in high school in Jamaica, and then arriving in the United States and working in secondary education programs, Gooden recognized the challenges underserved and disadvantaged populations faced within the educational system. And he wanted to make a difference.

“It appealed to me. I think it’s in my blood,” Gooden said. “I come from a family of educators — siblings as well — and I have a rich history of education. My younger brother, who is a phenomenal instructor in Jamaica, teaches physics. Growing up around that environment, it was instilled in me and I’ve always been drawn to not just advanced learners but to try to appeal to diverse and broad populations to lend additional support when needed.”

With the intention of being an architect, Gooden enrolled in St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh where he earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial mathematics. While serving as an undergraduate math tutor, he decided he wanted to be a mathematician. But after his experience as a substitute teacher at North Johnston High School, his focus shifted. 

Having discovered a love for teaching, Gooden landed a full-time position as a lateral-entry teacher at Clayton High School. Later, he accepted a position as an adjunct developmental math instructor at Johnston County Middle College High School, which was held at Johnston Community College. 

Through that experience, he fell in love with community college, eventually landing a teaching position at Johnston Community College before becoming department chair. While serving in his administrative role, Gooden enrolled in the NC State College of Education’s community college leadership doctoral program, where he will graduate in 2022. 

In January 2021, Gooden joined Durham Technical Community College as the dean of Building, Engineering, and Skilled Trades. In this role, he oversees programs in the skilled construction trades and oversees the university transfer pathways for programs such as engineering. 

“My area is one of several meta-majors under the Guided Career Pathways model at Durham Tech. What’s unique about my role is that that meta-major allows for seamless pathway maps from non-credit or continuing education to short-term credentials to university transfers. It’s kind of mapping out those on-ramps for students onto career or transfer to universities,” he said. 

When Gooden isn’t helping community college students succeed or studying for his doctorate, you can find him on the soccer field. He loves soccer and served as a youth soccer coach until the pandemic interrupted athletics. Aside from being on the field, Gooden enjoys watching soccer and track and field. He loves spending time with his wife and two children outdoors, doing yard work and immersing himself in reading educational literature. But one of his deepest passions is math. Occasionally, he’ll pick up the calculus book and read it. 

Gooden shares why he chose education, what attracted him to the community college leadership doctoral program, how education has shaped him and how his experience in the college has impacted him as a community college administrator. 

Why I Chose Education: It’s a calling, because there have been so many trajectories in my life. I was very focused on athletics and I did well athletically, but I also taught early in my life but never in my mind did I think I would pursue that long-term. I said I was going to be an architect, then I came to St. Augustine’s for college and said I’m going to be a mathematician. It wasn’t until my substitute teaching position at North Johnston High School. There was something about that experience; I’ll never forget those students. It was my algebra class and a small group of calculus students that I had, and it was just the reward of seeing them pass the EOGs and the AP exam and just what it meant for them. I was at the graduation and thought ‘This was amazing,’ and then I got a full-time position at Clayton High School. But I credit that one moment, that experience as a substitute teacher at North Johnston High School.

Why I Chose the Community College Leadership Doctoral Program at NC State: It’s a well-renowned program. Dr. Carol Warren, assistant teaching professor and Faculty Scholar with the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, did some recruiting and provided some information sessions, which piqued my interest. I also wanted to grow more as a community college leader. I learned so much more about the program and the flexibility in terms of the course offerings. That was also vital, along with the funding opportunities, and the ability to advance my career and expand on my professional skill sets, knowledge network and so forth. 

It was a tremendous opportunity to grow more as a leader, it’s a well-renowned program and it provided tremendous convenience to be able to take classes while working and being a parent. It was the perfect opportunity and time to grow and learn. 

What I Enjoy Most About Being Part of the College of Education: I think what I’ve enjoyed most is the wealth of knowledge and skill sets of the cohort. I am so thankful to be there. I believe that they’re intentional in how they select and put the groups together because never did I imagine that I would continue networking, and still will after graduation, with many of the cohort members. I think the selection process and putting us together in a cohort just fosters an amazingly rich culture of knowledge and experience. I think almost anything is possible when you think about the challenges, projects, challenging real emerging problems and creative solutions we came up with; that has been priceless. That network is super enjoyable. 

One of the reasons I’m at Durham Tech is because there were Durham Tech cohort members who talked a lot about Durham Tech and I wanted to learn more about the culture because it appealed more to what I wanted to do. 

How Education Has Shaped Me: Lifelong learning. Coming up, you think that you learn so much and it stops and you get to sit back and relax, but I would say most significantly lifelong learning. It never ends and you can always learn more and continue to grow. And one of the most critical things, from the community college perspective, that I’ve learned is what it means for economic development and income in general.

Now I’m really focused on finding untapped skills and getting individuals in jobs for social and economic mobility. People want jobs so they can survive, live and give back to the community. I’ve learned a lot about service and what it means to acknowledge and appreciate all the functions of our educational sector at the community college and what it means for a society to function, especially in this pandemic. 

I had so many years in university transfer at Johnston. I learned quite a bit about continuing education, but not as much. When the structured way can really function across all those areas of the community college system, you’re better positioned to address the unique challenges of our region and of our community. Those short-term options, one of my programs, the Electric Line Technician program, is 10 weeks and students can come out making close to $50,000 or more. It wasn’t until my master’s and my National Board Certification that I started making as much as an electric line tech, having invested way more. I’m happy where I am, but those are the stories that need to be told so that we can educate our society and give them better positioning to choose instead of us choosing for them and telling them. 

An NC State College of Education Experience That Impacted Me: When I started the program, I had maybe 14 years of experience in the community college system but I knew nothing. Every experience is a building block to something greater. Learning more about the history of the community college, the professors and the individuals who were former presidents. Having individuals like that, professors who are in the classroom with that deep, rich practitioner knowledge and who also brought in outside individuals as well to present and really expand our knowledge of the community college system. I would say that it was fantastic. 

Learn more about Lance Gooden ’22EDD