UC College of Arts & Sciences Honors Scholar Looks Forward to International Study as Training for Diplomatic Career
University of Cincinnati College of Arts & Sciences Honors Scholar Gordon Goodwin knew from the moment he first visited UC that he was interested in studying here.
“I was happy on this campus,” he remembered. “All this greenspace and all these neat places you can go — that was what first got me to apply.”
The clinching factor for accepting his scholarship offer, though, was the knowledge that he’d be afforded resources for international study.
“It’s a gamechanger,” Goodwin gushed. “This program allows me to go abroad!”
“During the interview process, it became clear that Gordon was a renaissance man,” recalled Lisa Holstrom, the College of Arts & Sciences’ Senior Assistant Dean for Academic Services.
“He was passionate about languages, history and the mandolin. His interest in Arabic and improving our world through diplomacy were evidence of a big-‐picture world view that was important to us as a selection commitee,” she noted.
Most students at Mariemont High School, in suburban Cincinnati, probably don’t spend their nights and weekends taking practice foreign service exams. Goodwin did.
“I’ve been taking them non-stop,” he said, grinning widely.
Like several of his classmates in the Honors Scholars Program, Goodwin wants to change the world. Specifically, he wants to change history. On second thought, “change” might be the wrong word. He wants to shape it.
“There’s no job that can more directly save lives than by working to bring peace and understanding,” Goodwin explained. “I’ve been working toward that goal my whole life.”
Ask him about the structure of the United States’ diplomatic corps and he’ll tell you everything you want to know.
The State Department offers 5 career tracks, known internally as “cones.” Goodwin’s specifically interested in the Public Diplomacy Officer track.
PDOs, he explained, are tasked with engaging other countries’ leaders, academics and tastemakers and influencing their opinions about US policy. They work with governments, non-governmental organizations, media organizations — they touch every aspect of our nation’s relationships with others.
“You try to build relations with communities in the country and help run foreign exchange programs. You’re doing diplomacy less from the negotiating sense, but [more from the sense of] building friendship.”
But Goodwin doesn’t want a cushy post in an allied or neutral zone. He wants the opportunity to foster trust and cooperation with people who don’t always have the rosiest view of America’s foreign policies.
That, he said, is a key reason why he chose to major in Arabic — it’s one of the State Department’s languages of critical need, and one that would serve him well for the positions in which he envisions himself eventually serving.
The United States, Goodwin noted, keenly needs diplomats who not only speak potential adversaries’ languages, but also have deep understanding of their cultures. Understanding, he said, yields respect and empathy, and those in turn bring peace.
“If I can play a role in stopping violence, that’s the best thing I could do in my life,” he added.
From the sciences to the humanities.
Goodwin’s father is a civil engineer. His mother was a nurse. At the height of the Great Recession, the family moved from Youngstown to Mariemont, where his father’s job prospects were better.
At the time, Goodwin said, he was most interested in one day becoming a scientist.
“I loved biology and paleontology. But then I bought an Age of Empires game at a garage sale for 25 cents and playing it changed my entire life,” he chuckled. “Suddenly, all the science took a backseat.”
The video game series challenges players to build an historic civilization from scratch — the Romans or the Egyptians, for example — and defend it.
As in real life, success in the game doesn’t depend solely on a nation’s technological superiority or military might. It also depends on the fostering of beneficial trade, frequent diplomatic dialogue and cultural progress.
Those aspects, Goodwin said, were more appealing to him. And they sparked his dream of becoming a diplomat in the real world.
“While science and business are topics that interest me, I don’t see myself interacting in that sphere,” he explained. “International Relations will give me the background to work with governments and understand [their] policies.”
“You have to try to be a part of history. That motivates me,” he said. “I’ll throw my dart, and wherever the dart lands, I’ll be happy, because I’ll have done my best.”
Since arriving on campus, though, he’s come to fully appreciate the depth of support the College of Arts & Sciences’ Honors Scholars program gives him.
“It’s giving me a community,” he explained. “I appreciate the people I’ve met and I appreciate the level of mentoring I’m getting.”
“I get to meet with people who are heads of departments and talk to them about what I should be doing. I was able to get [insights] about classes that my normal advisor wasn’t able to give me,” said Goodwin.
“I actually met with the head of the Arabic Department to work out my schedule,” he recounted. “I’m already planned out for the spring semester.”