Texas Tech University

Staff Spotlight: Joan Goodman-Williamson, Ph.D.


Executive Director for International Relations 

Although Joan Goodman-Williamson's academic career took her all the way to Harvard University, her journey in higher education began as an undergraduate student at Texas Tech University. In 2016, Joan returned to Lubbock and accepted the position of Executive Director of International Relations at the Office of International Affairs. She also teaches in Texas Tech Department of English.  

Tell us about yourself and how you became interested in higher education.

My interest in higher education actually stems from my undergraduate days at Texas Tech -- in the century past.  I worked for the Chair for what was then the Department of Architecture, and I was able to help my Portuguese teacher, Dr. Klock, teach Portuguese (which I was taking as well).   After receiving my PhD, I was awarded a Fellowship to teach at Georgia Tech, then moved to Boston and taught in a small private College before joining Harvard University.  So, I have been involved in higher education for quite some time.  It is a real privilege to get to teach and to help others as they navigate their futures.  I also got to work with the Rhodes Scholars program in Oxford (and across the globe) which was very exciting.

What brought you to Texas Tech? 

My husband and I came back to Texas in 2016.  He came (also as an Alum) to the College of Architecture as the Dean, and I came to the Office of International Affairs and have been fortunate to teach in the English Department as well.  I still have family living in Dallas so that was an extra bonus -- to get to see them more often.

Tell us about your position in the Office of International Affairs as Executive Director of International Relations. 

My work with the Office of International Affair as the Executive Director of International Relations has been a terrific opportunity to get to know students, faculty and staff -- and to work closely with advancing international competency.  I get to work on events, scholarships, International Fellows and student groups, and with individuals and groups outside of the university.  It is very rewarding to be a part of advancing TTU's international profile and understanding.

As a professor in the English department, what has been your favorite experience of your teaching career so far?

I have loved working with the students and faculty of the English Department.  The energy and willingness of most of my students to learn more and to improve their writing skills is an experience itself.  I think my favorite thing is when students tell me that even though I am a hard teacher, they have learned much more than they knew before taking the course, and that they actually liked the course.  You can't ask for more than that.  I love it when former students contact me and ask for help on something or for a recommendation to graduate school or an internship.  What a treat to know you have had an impact on someone's journey!

What advice would you offer to graduating students?

I think any advice to graduating students would be very similar to what I tell current students.  BE BOLD AND BE CURIOUS -- don't let your past experiences fully define who you are – explore what you are curious about, and always remember to give back, especially if you are doing well in life.  

We would love to know something about your family. 

I have an amazing family!  My husband is a well-known architect and academic, and our daughter, Morgan, is an Art Historian whose focus is on Japanese art.  She is currently working with a private collector who has the largest collection of Japanese ceramics outside of Japan, so she gets to do translations, some curating, and is working with others on different shows for museums and books.  She hopes to begin her doctoral studies in Japanese art in the coming Fall.

As you think about your accomplishments, what are you most proud of?

I think my work with the political scientist and former Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Dr. Joseph Nye, as well as my work with Nelson Mandela would be at the top of that list.  I worked with a former colleague on Mandela's last wish -- to build a children's hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, to treat tertiary care needs for children no matter their ethnicity or ability to pay.  It was a phenomenal (and happily a successful) experience to be able to use some of the skills I have learned to help give back.  I have been very fortunate and was taught to pay it forward. In my work with Joe Nye I was afforded incredible opportunities to meet and work with global leaders and to greatly enhance my understanding of the world and the complexities of leadership.