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Ashley C. Goodwin, ’09, ’11, is a trendsetter.
She’s a first-generation scholar who went the distance to earn a terminal degree. Last May, she became the first African American woman in the world to earn a doctoral degree in creative leadership for innovation and change from the University of the Virgin Islands, a program set up through a partnership with the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State. It’s also the first doctoral program of its kind.
Needless to say, Goodwin's been an inspiration to family and friends. And now, in her role as assistant director for student leadership and engagement, she’s inspiring students to achieve more, as well.
“I’m a first-generation college student, and I think that it’s important to model that here,” she said. “There are a lot of first-generation students at Buffalo State.”
Goodwin grew up in a working-class family in Lackawanna. Both of her parents worked hard for the opportunities she’s had, and set an example for Goodwin and her siblings.
“Seeing them work so hard, I knew I wanted to do something different that they could be proud of,” she said. “They supported me through it all. They were coaching me and moving me along to get to the finish line. Each milestone and graduation, they were right there beside me.”
In high school, Goodwin wanted to become a news anchor. She didn’t envision herself graduating with a doctoral degree. That changed when she became a resident assistant while attending Buffalo State for her bachelor’s degree.
“I started to learn about student engagement and see that there is a need on campus for staff and faculty in the residence halls, and how your interactions with them help them to be successful students,” she said. “I got hooked. That changed what I wanted to do. Instead of being on a screen, I wanted to be more purposeful.”
That change-in-career mindset led to nearly 11 years of consulting both nationally and internationally, and a focus on education and diversity, Goodwin said, but she wanted to earn a doctorate for herself, as well.
“Being a doctor was important for me to be a theorist and have a method to my madness,” she said. “I always had these wild and crazy ideas, but I needed something to back it up.”
The path to getting her doctorate wasn’t easy, Goodwin said. There were times she felt like giving up.
“I almost didn’t make my timeline,” she said. “There was a time when I thought, 'You know what? I’m just going to wait until next year.'”
The support she received from her family and Gerard Puccio, professor and chair of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State, kept her going.
“In my nearly 30 years as an educator, I have never witnessed a student who displayed more grit, tenacity, and determination than Dr. Ashley Goodwin,” Puccio said. “As a result of her focus, she produced a scholarly product that adds unique value to our collective view of diversity and its meaning. I have mentored many graduate students, and it was a privilege to work with Dr. Goodwin."
“It was amazing, just the whole experience,” Goodwin said. “I feel so rewarded because I earned every letter and every stripe on my sleeve. It was a test of my will.”
Now that she’s back at Buffalo State, Goodwin said, she couldn’t be happier.
“I’ve always wanted to get back to Buff State because it’s home to me,” she said.
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