December 21, 2021

“Great Bay has definitely been a confidence boost that I needed and the best launching pad I could think of for the next phase of my life.”

A military brat who has lived nomadic lifestyle much of his life, Goodwin grew up in a home-schooled environment, attending formal schools only in the first, third and ninth grades. His parents did the best they could, “but there were definitely a few things I lacked, especially in my high school education – and especially math and science. When you are 29 and going back to school — I graduated high school 11 years ago – there is a bit of anxiety.”

The community at Great Bay, where Goodwin enrolled this semester in liberal arts, has helped alleviate that anxiety. He has thrived at Great Bay, which has been welcoming and warm, he said. “I knew Great Bay would be a gentler environment for me to dip my toe back in academia,” he said. “I assumed a community college vs. another place would be a little more conducive to a nontraditional student, being a little older and not having a strong STEM background. Great Bay has absolutely been that.”

Goodwin won’t be at Great Bay long. He is using his community college experience as a steppingstone to the University of Vermont, where he will enroll in January as a philosophy major. At Burlington, Goodwin will live indoors, in a heated room, unlike at Great Bay, where he has chosen to live in his Toyota RAV4, which he converted into sleeping quarters by removing the backseat and building a multi-tiered platform bed.

By choice, he has slept in parking lots and elsewhere, using area gyms for showers, while studying full time at Great Bay. He came to Portsmouth from Washington, D.C., where he worked for the Department of Defense until May 2021. That is when he quit his job and set out on a long cross-country journey that ended in New Hampshire in the fall.

“I had never been to New England, and I wanted to check it out,” said Goodwin, who considers Delaware home and served in Kuwait and Iraq as part of the Nebraska Army National Guard. “I instantly fell in love. The White Mountains are great. The Green Mountains are great. The Seacoast is great. It’s a beautiful area with a lot of outdoor activity. I wanted to stick around.”

He took advantage of the GI Bill and enrolled in Great Bay with a full course load. “I took a gamble going back to school, quitting a good-paying military job and giving up that career. But with Great Bay’s tuition being lower than a university, that helped alleviate the stress. I could take the gamble,” he said.

Goodwin praised his professors and the staff at Great Bay for helping him, and singled out the security staff, which has been accommodating of his unconventional lifestyle. Soon after he enrolled, he found a care package on his car with food, toothpaste “and the little necessities of life. That was a really sweet gesture, really kind. Everyone, when the found out I lived in my car, went out of their way to help. I was born and bred for nomadic desire to be outside. Once I get that out of the way, people are all willing to help.”

Despite his fear of math and science, Goodwin has done well at Great Bay. “The instructors are all helpful and are all very willing to work with me outside of class hours, to help me recover from some of the holes in my previous education,” he said.

As for his decision to major in philosophy at the University of Vermont, he said it’s about exploring existential ideas he wrestled with all of his life, and to learn the soft skills necessary to succeed in all facets of a career. “Being able to learn how to handle complex ideas and how to be able to dissect them is something that is broadly applicable, and it’s a skillset I lack within myself,” he said. “Philosophy will help with that.”

In the military, Goodwin specialized in human intelligence. While deployed, his job involved intelligence analysis for military and political purposes. After his deployment, in Washington he worked as a contractor for the Department of Defense, reviewing raw material and writing assessments.

“I was lucky enough to work with really smart, talented people — people who had graduate degrees, who spoke multiple languages, people who went to Ivy League schools and studied psychology and economics. I was there as a contractor with some military experience under my belt and no degree. In that context, I realized that the hard skills a person leans on a job is the easy part of learning a job but having a theoretical framework to do those soft skills is something best learned in a formal environment.”

That’s where Great Bay came into his life. Maybe it was the care package on his car or simply the care of the community, but Goodwin has felt at home the moment he arrived.

“Great Bay has definitely been a confidence boost that I needed and the best launching pad I could think of for the next phase of my life.”