Opening doors: How a first-generation college student became a first-rate leader in education.

Daniel “Dee” Goines

Online Doctor of Education — Higher Education Leadership, 2022

For Daniel “Dee” Goines, education is about opening doors.

Coming from a socioeconomically underprivileged area, Dee has known plenty of people who thought they might not be able to make it far in their education. Many people didn’t even consider college an option because of barriers like access or cost.

But he knows the benefits and opportunities that come with education are strong reasons to pursue it.

“Those who think, ‘I don’t want to pursue this because it costs too much,’ or whatever the case is, you can’t put a price on that stuff,” he says. “It’s still going to open doors.”

Refusing to be defined by his environment, Dee knew that furthering his education could mean getting the future he envisioned for himself. He even dedicated his career to helping others earn their college degrees. Through 15 years in educational administration, he’s seen firsthand how education can propel people forward in their lives and careers — and how overcoming hesitation and earning a degree can inspire bravery in future generations.

“You’re setting up your future family to say, ‘oh, they were scared of something, and they did it. I’m scared of something, now I can do it,’” he says.

Dee is a believer in the power of higher education. So he chose to earn his online Doctor of Education (EdD) in Higher Education Leadership degree to take his career into his own hands and help future learners like him see what’s possible.

“This is for everybody else, too — it’s not just for me,” he says. “This is for my brother, my mom, my dad, my wife, my daughter. This is for everybody, everybody that was supposed to be left behind. … It is a demonstration. It’s just a celebration for everybody.”

Facing doubts — and moving forward

Earning a doctorate degree takes courage and commitment. For Dee, it also took some additional planning and consideration. He’s a family man, helping his wife — who is also working toward her doctorate degree — raise their three-year-old daughter, Parker. With family responsibilities and a full-time career, Dee knew he’d have to reprioritize some things to make his schedule work.

“I used to like playing video games like Madden and NBA 2K, but when I started this program, they said ‘you’ll have to sacrifice something,’” he says. Even small adjustments like cutting back on gaming helped make the major task of earning a doctorate feel much more doable.

Dee also had some internalized doubts based on his upbringing and his family’s history with education. As a first-generation college student, Dee is the first one in his family ever to earn a degree of any sort. Going for a doctorate seemed impossibly ambitious — especially because growing up, he wasn’t the type of student to prioritize education.

“I was an average student,” he says. “I probably got, like, six A’s throughout high school and [early] college. Everything else was, ‘what do I need to graduate? What do I need to stay above that 2.5 threshold?’”

While searching for a doctoral program, Dee knew he wanted to hold himself to a higher standard. After considering his options, he chose Maryville University’s online EdD. He knew the personalized student support and flexibility Maryville offered would help him maximize his education and fit his studies around his busy life.

After overcoming an early challenge and getting an A in a statistics course that might have once intimidated him, Dee approached the rest of his doctorate with a renewed sense of self-confidence. In contrast to the average-level attitude he had toward education in the past, Dee decided to push himself to reach his potential.

Coming to Maryville, I had set a goal to have all A’s in the program. And so every semester I was pushing myself. And I did it,” he says. “I got one A-.”

You’re looking out for your students and making opportunities accessible — making employment accessible.

Photo of Daniel Goines
Photo of Daniel Goines's family

Opportunity, support, and the “family feel”

Earning a degree online doesn’t mean going it alone. Even while studying remotely, Dee found that he was able to build meaningful relationships with his fellow students and his professors. This was partly because of the structure of Maryville’s online EdD, which utilizes a cohort model — meaning Dee had the same classmates throughout the duration of the course.

“My cohort, for sure, has been the best part,” Dee says. “Yeah, we have only seen each other through a screen, but the connections were there, and the relationships were there, and they’ve been supportive throughout the process. I think we push and encourage each other. … It’s a family feel, an accountability feel, a desire to want everybody to make it to the end.”

Dee also recognizes advisors and faculty members who helped ensure he had the best possible experience while earning his doctorate. For example, Dee appreciated EdD program director Dr. Robin Grebing’s honesty and openness in establishing expectations and helping prepare for the work ahead.

“Everything is true about what you see in the commercials,” Dee says. “You hear about the academic support services. It’s all true.”

The cohort model and faculty support are examples of how Maryville cultivates an environment of inclusion and opportunity — values that align with Dee’s personal beliefs about educational equity. Dee recognized Maryville’s emphasis on lived experience over test scores as a unique way in which the university provided access to more learners, and he was impressed that this mission started at the very top: Maryville’s president, Dr. Mark Lombardi, often speaks on the importance of equality and access in education.

“The president, I watched a couple of his videos. And the mission, and just what direction Maryville is going in, it resonated with me around the landscape of higher education and making higher education more accessible for everybody,” Dee says. “You’re looking out for your students and making opportunities accessible — making employment accessible.”

Reflecting on leadership, diversity, and community

In his current career in education administration, Dee was able to apply his EdD coursework on reflective leadership and team management in real time.

“The School of Education has three learning outcomes,” Dee explains, “and I’ll say the top of those three for me would be this idea of reflective leadership. I think that was maybe our first or second class, we were challenged to be reflective as leaders and think about the actions that we make impacting our teams, and how to make sure everyone on our team has a voice.”

Now, driven by the concept of reflective leadership, Dee says he’s able to run more productive meetings with his team in which they celebrate their successes and work to find and improve processes that may need revision.

Dee also came away from the EdD program with a better understanding of people’s different perspectives and backgrounds.

He says what he’s learned has helped him understand “diversity in the workplace and all the -isms associated with that, especially around age. … How do we still create environments where they can thrive in their work and learn those things, and how can we create moments for them to teach?”

Leading by example — as a doctor

For himself and others, Dee continues to open doors.

With his doctorate in hand, he sees new opportunities ahead of him for professional growth and for helping others benefit from higher education like he did.

“I think it opens a new door,” he says. “I never really saw myself as a faculty member, but now I think I want to teach graduate students. … I think it’s opened doors for faculty opportunities, and it’s opened doors for more senior-level leadership opportunities.”

As he looks toward his future, Dee also can’t help but think about how his advanced career will affect his family. He’s proud that his 3-year-old daughter, Parker, will grow up in an environment where it will be normal for her to hear her dad referred to as “doctor” — and he’s optimistic that she’ll understand what’s possible for herself and her future.

“She’ll know it’s not far,” Dee says. “It’s attainable for her. And she’ll be able to have that example.”

Watch the heartwarming moment when Dee calls himself “Dr. Goines” for the first time here.

  • Transcript

    00:17 03:22 – “Interviewer: So, I want you to say, “Dr. Goines”,
    03:22 05:23 – and then tell me how it feels to say that.
    07:08 09:15 – Dr. Goines: This will be a first that I’ll have to say that about myself.
    09:15 11:21 – So I gotta get ready.
    12:10 14:15 – Dr. Goines.
    14:29 17:09 – So, it feels good,
    17:25 19:25 – No, it’s like, it’s surreal!
    20:19 22:12 – So, my daughter, she is 3.
    22:12 26:20 – I think the more I can be in environments where people say,
    26:20 29:23 – Oh, hi Dr. Goines. Hi Dr. Goines,” that’ll be normal for her to hear that,
    29:23 32:10 – And she’ll be like, “Oh, my daddy a doctor?
    32:10 33:17 – She don’t know what kind of doctor,
    33:17 37:18 – because all she associates “doctor” with right now is “Let me check your heart rate.”
    37:18 39:25 – But she knows it’s a profession that helps people.
    39:25 42:18 – For her hearing that, she knows that’s her last name.
    43:05 45:25 – And then my wife is also working on her doctorate right now, too.
    45:25 48:22 – So, she’ll know, like, it’s not, it’s not far,
    48:22 52:04 – it’s obtainable for her and she’ll be able to just have that example.
    52:06 54:06 – It feels good to say it. I’ll work on that next week
    54:06 56:10 – at all my meetings, just introducing myself as that.
    56:10 57:15 – It feels good for sure.

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