Susan T. Gooden, Ph.D. is dean and professor of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is an internationally recognized expert on social equity. In 2009, Gooden was elected as a fellow of the congressionally chartered National Academy of Public Administration.
Gooden authored Cultural Competency for Public Administrators (2012) with leading scholars and practitioners to understand real-world challenges that public administrators face under fiscal realities. As seminal research, Gooden released Race and Social Equity: A Nervous Area of Government (2014) which examined the public sector’s ‘nervousness’ with racial equity and the consequences of that discomfort in public management and organizational behavior. Race and Social Equity provides examples of federal, state, and local agencies that are ‘ahead of the curve’ when implementing strategies to mitigate disparate impacts and close racial/ethnic gaps. During this same time, Gooden was elected as the 75th president of the American Society of Public Administration (ASPA) and the first African-American woman elected to the national position in 2014. Per ASPA bylaws, Gooden initially served as ASPA vice-president, then president-elect in 2015, and in 2016, assume the ASPA presidency. In 2017, Gooden presided over the ASPA Annual Conference which convened a record number of public sector leaders, scholars, and practitioners. Gooden described her conference theme and her presidency, “Saluting the Public Service: A Bold and Noble Profession,” as an extension of her values and honors “public servants as the backbone of our society.”
In addition to serving on the NAPA Standing Panel on Social Equity in Governance, Gooden brings an extensive record of public service leadership at the national, state, and local levels. She has served as an elected member of the National Policy Council of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM), was appointed to the Virginia Community College System board by Governor Terence McAuliffe, and was recently appointed to the Virginia Retirement System Board by former-Governor Ralph Northam.
At the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), Gooden served as a member of NASPAA’s Executive Council, a member of the NASPAA Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation (COPRA), and chaired the NASPAA Minority Service Institutions Taskforce. In the 2021-22 term, she was elected as NASPAA President to advance public service through education advocacy in the policy and political spheres. Gooden championed a diversity, equity, and inclusion framework and adopted an action-oriented strategy as NASPAA rolls out a DEIA plan of action based on strategic imperatives. As NASPAA president, Gooden advanced an engaging theme by centering equity events during the 2022 NASPAA Annual Conference in Chicago, IL. Under the conference theme, “The Time is Now: A Bold & Noble Public Service for All,” Gooden challenged all NASPAA member institutions to be “fearless in standing up for the values of public service.”
At VCU, Gooden founded the Wilder Graduate Scholars Program and served as the executive director of The Grace E. Leadership Institute. Her recent books include Global Equity in Administration (2020, Routledge) and Why Research Methods Matter (2018, Melvin and Leigh). A native of Martinsville & Henry County, Virginia, Gooden earned an A.S. in Natural Science from Patrick Henry Community College, a B.A. in English from Virginia Tech, and an M.A. in Political Science from Virginia Tech. She received her doctorate from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.
During Black History Month, we honor servant leadership as NAPA fellows continue to serve others and over the course of history, foster social equity in public service. In a compelling way, Gooden believes, “It always seems impossible until it’s done” (Nelson Mandela, 2001).