M. André Goodfriend, whose UA studies in language and culture paved the way for a career in diplomacy that’s spanned more than three decades, is the College of Humanities 2018 Alumnus of the Year.
Currently serving as the director of the U.S. Department of State’s Information Resource Management Office of eDiplomacy, Goodfriend will be honored during Homecoming festivities on Friday, Oct. 26.
Goodfriend’s distinguished career in diplomacy has taken him to Tel Aviv, New Dehli, Moscow, Frankfurt, London, Damascus, Budapest and U.S. embassies across Africa. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 1979 with a quadruple major: French, Greek, philosophy and radio/TV.
“We make of our careers what we bring to them,” Goodfriend says. “Humanities, I think, gives us things that are malleable, they’re easily shapeable, this understanding of cultures and society. You can pick the career, pick the profession, and there are ways to apply a background in humanities to that field.”
Goodfriend is also a featured presenter at the 2018 Tucson Humanities Festival. He will speak on “Transparency & Trust: How Open Diplomacy Advances Democracy” at 10 a.m. on Oct. 26 and will be the guest of honor at that evening’s COH Alumni Mixer that evening and the Young Alumni Brunch on Oct. 27.
A strong advocate for transparency and public engagement in government, much of Goodfriend’s work has revolved around the role of information technology in diplomacy and consular operations, ensuring through effective knowledge sharing, decision support and communication, the U.S. is able to further its foreign policy goals and while ensuring that safeguarding the welfare of American citizens abroad is carried out in the best way possible.
“In an increasingly interconnected world, where human interaction takes place in ways that were not possible just a few years earlier, and where technological societal change means that the nature of work is changing as well, my UA studies in languages, philosophy, religion and communication have enabled me to understand the diverse cultures around me,” he says. “They have prepared me to lead my team through rapid change, and to represent the U.S. abroad effectively as a diplomat.”
Even at the most basic level, studying languages opens people up to different ways of thinking, Goodfriend says.
“It helps to have a little bit of that fluidity that comes from studying multiple languages and cultures. You get an understanding of nuance and of culture and how to engage with people in that environment,” Goodfriend says. “The act of having studied languages to a point where I could at one point have a conversation meant that I had to adjust my way of thinking, and I have a much deeper understanding of people who come from that particular culture and how they express themselves and what motivates them.”
Beyond those practical skills that Goodfriend has applied to his job for decades, his humanities education has nurtured and encouraged deeper thinking about the diversity of cultures as well as what those cultures all share.
“Understanding what it means to be a person, a human being in this environment and how we interact with each other as people and how we move forward as a human race is something that’s in the name itself, humanities, and I’m glad that I took it,” he says.
Building stronger connections with alumni is a primary focus for Dean Alain-Philippe Durand, who has traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Goodfriend and others working in the area.
“Our alumni have gone onto outstanding careers in any industry you can think of and their success and passion can serve to inspire our current students,” Durand says. “André Goodfriend is a tremendous example of someone who has achieved amazing things by putting those lessons and skills from the humanities into practice in a career that makes a positive impact on the world.”