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Personality: Dr. Susan T. Gooden

Spotlight on president of American Society for Public Administration

5/20/2016, 1:21 p.m.
Being in leadership is not always an easy thing. Leaders must tackle the tough decisions and issues for their organization. ...

Being in leadership is not always an easy thing.

Leaders must tackle the tough decisions and issues for their organization.

But Dr. Susan T. Gooden, professor of public administration and policy at Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, is up to the challenge.

Dr. Gooden was inducted as president of the 8,000-member American Society for Public Administration during its annual conference in March in Seattle.

She is the first African-American woman and first person from VCU to hold the organization’s highest office in its 77-year history.

The ASPA is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration, and is dedicated to advancing the practice, art, science and teaching of public and nonprofit administration.

It recognizes core values of accountability, performance, professionalism, ethics and social equity. The top issues facing public administration today, she says, are providing equity in public services and ensuring the public sector workforce has necessary resources.

The theme of her keynote address at the ASPA conference: “Race and Social Equity: A Nervous Area of Government.” It’s also the theme of a book she has written.

Dr. Gooden believes that discussions of race and equity within policy and government remain an issue that many leaders are reluctant to engage in, even when it is clear that policies play a role in various social pathologies that disparately impact communities of color.

“I say ‘the nervous area of government’ because government organizations have a footprint relative to many of these inequities,” Dr. Gooden says. Because government policies are a part of the problem, they “also have to be a huge part of the solution.”

Connecting the dots between racial equity and policy has been a regular and committed part of Dr. Gooden’s career. Prior to teaching at VCU, Dr. Gooden served as an associate professor at Virginia Tech, where she was founder and director of the Race and Social Policy Research Center.

This week’s Personality, Dr. Susan T. Gooden, is leading the way:

Date and place of birth: May 30 in Franklin County.

Current residence: Short Pump in Henrico County.

Alma maters: Associate degree in natural science, Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville; bachelor’s degree in English and master’s degree in political science, Virginia Tech; master’s degree in political science, and Ph.D. in political science, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.

Family: Husband, Dr. Basil I. Gooden, and daughter, Caper C. Gooden.

How long I’ve been involved with American Society for Public Administration: Since 1995.

Reason: It is the primary professional association for my field and it is a very inclusive organization comprised of academics, practitioners and students. When I originally joined ASPA as a doctoral student, I was impressed that such a large organization was so accessible and welcoming of new members.

Why is this organization important: It promotes public service values and good governance in the United States and internationally. ASPA is recognized and respected worldwide as a leader in the promotion of public service and offers access to a rich network of public administration professionals.