The course I worried most about taking when I started D’Youville College was none other than organic chemistry. Countless students and even my own mother who is a pharmacist said it was one of the most difficult classes they have ever taken. However, most of the people I talked to said that their chemistry teacher was boring, which made the class almost equivalent to torture.
I’m in my sophomore year at D’Youville, enrolled in the Biology (BS) program, which is the first half of the chiropractic track. This means that I am now currently taking the class I dreaded most…..organic chemistry. When I arrived at D’Youville I was shocked to hear so many people claim that organic chemistry (we like to call it orgo for short) was their favorite class. I was absolutely dumbfounded by this until I began taking orgo and became enlightened. Both orgo one and two are taught by Dr. Margaret Goodman who is pretty much a celebrity professor on campus. I’ve heard students raving about her and never quite understood until I began taking orgo and got to know her. She is truly a spectacular person and one of the best teachers I have ever had. I only use the term teacher instead of professor because I want to express the statement across my entire academic career from pre-k to present.
I’m not great at organic chemistry, but orgo has become my favorite class because Dr. Goodman is so good at what she does. Perhaps, the reason she is loved by so many of her students is that she takes the time to get to know each and every one of us and her enthusiasm is invigorating! Dr. Goodman makes herself available for students to see her for help, and if she is not available on campus she invites students to e-mail her. She is the Speedy Gonzales of e-mails; she always replies to students ASAP! She also has a great sense of humor which helps too. Because Dr. Goodman is such an awesome and well-liked professor, I decided that it would be fun to interview her.
What got you so interested in organic chemistry?
I started out going for forensic chemistry and then I took organic and I started doing research after the first semester of organic chemistry and I just thought it was the coolest thing. It just clicked for me. Research is the coolest thing and it just got me totally hooked. It was much more conceptual rather than math based and I just loved it. I love the big picture, to me it’s like puzzles and I love trying to figure out synthesis of various things. So it was that and the research mainly that really sold me on it.
When you were little what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a jockey. Because you know all little girls always love horses and I did too and I thought that would be really cool. My dad, he would always take us to the horse races so it was fun.
You’ve taught organic for a while now. How do you remain so enthusiastic about it in class?
Oh I just love the subject! You know I think that’s the key. If you really like your subject you can always be excited about it. I love it and I’m trying to instill that in students and make it not such a boogey man. I want you guys to learn it. I’m not trying to trick you guys. I would love for you guys all to get A’s and just really understand it.
If you were to give advice to someone about teaching what would you say?
Find the subject you love so you can remain enthusiastic about it and that’s important.
[We went into a conversation about how Dr. Goodman keeps students engaged by not providing MS Powerpoint notes, and instead making them physically write out the notes.]
How did you end up at D’Youville?
I’m kind of locked into this region because of my family. I started surfing online and they had a job posted, I applied, and I got it!
What is your favorite thing about DYC?
The students. I get to know the students. I’ve lectured at the University at Buffalo and there are 300 students in one section of organic. I would get to know very few students. I like getting to know you guys. For the most part you’re a good bunch of kids. Not kids necessarily, but a good bunch of students and I appreciate that because that’s nice. It means a lot. You’re not just a number.
What is the funniest experience you have had with a student?
I really can’t think of one in particular, especially during lab because it’s kind of always light-hearted. I do tend to tease my students a lot so it’s a lot of isolated little incidences, but there’s not one that sticks out.
Tell me a little bit about your family.
I’m married, second marriage, right now and he’s pretty awesome. I’m really happy. He’s a really good guy. He’s another chemistry professor. He just… he’s… makes… I’m really happy with him! Between the two of us we have five kids. Three are mine. Two are his. They all get along, so we are really lucky. The oldest one, Kaeli, is in the Peace Corps; she’s in South Africa. Number two, Maris, is finishing up her elementary education with a math major. Number three, Gage, is at Geneseo for chemistry. Number four, Madeson, just started at Cortland in Biology. And number five, Taylor, just started high school.
Do you have any pets?
No. I like them but, we just don’t have time for them.
Did you always live in Buffalo?
I have always lived in Western New York.
Do you like it here or do you wish you lived somewhere else?
I don’t mind it here. I moved into the city about nine years ago and I enjoy Western New York one-hundred percent better living in the city. I’ve always wanted to move away just for the experience of exploring a new place, but I like it here. It’s okay. I would like it to be warmer.
Do you follow any sports teams?
Yes! I love sports. Baseball is my favorite sport actually. I like the Yankees… sorry! Growing up in Western New York the Yankees were always on and my parents were fans so I just kind of picked that up. My husband’s an A’s fan, he grew up in California so I like the A’s too. I like football. I follow the Buffalo Bills of course. I like golf. I’ll watch basketball, I like hockey. I like it all.
Did you ever play any sports?
I played softball and I used to run. I really enjoyed being outside in the sun. It was a lot of fun.
Do you admire any famous people throughout history?
I admire a lot of people especially Isaac Newton. He was a genius. He was so ahead of his time.
Do you have any hobbies?
Gardening! I have a flower garden. My yard’s pretty rockin; I’m on the garden walk every year. It’s the one thing I do and I like cooking. All my kids have already said when I get my house you’ve got to come and help me.
What is something that most people do not know about you?
I didn’t start college until I was thirty-six. I was a non-traditional student. I went right out of high-school and I dropped out within like two weeks because I just didn’t want to be there. I was first-generation college student. I came from a blue-collar family and I didn’t go back to school until my youngest child started kindergarten.
Do you have a random talent?
I can wiggle one eyebrow at a time and do this with my lips. (See the following picture exemplifying what she means by her lip talent)
Do you have an embarrassing story you would like to share?
I’m always singing in my head and a lot of times I’ll just be walking through the halls singing and of course I’ll always run into students and I’m singing and that’s kind of embarrassing. I’m “Crazy Dr. Goodman!”
Do you have any pet peeves?
My biggest pet peeves are pedestrians in the city because they just walk whenever they want in the street and they drive me insane. The traffic light is green and they walk right into the intersection!
What is your favorite food?
Oh I love food…all food! My favorite is really hard to say. I just like food. You know I like just about anything. I like spicy food. I love Thai food. I make this West African Chicken Peanut Soup which is pretty delicious. But yeah just about everything. The only thing I don’t like are pickled beets. But I just love food.
What is your favorite candy?
Chocolate. Anything chocolate! Truffles I like chocolate truffles [she made an almost Santa Claus-like sound when talking about truffles.]
If you could have any super power what would it be and why?
I think I’m going to go with the teletransportation. You can get places and stuff [quick finger snaps). I’m going to visit my daughter in South Africa this winter actually you know in the Peace Corps. It’s a 15 hour flight. I would rather just have that time with her. It’s like (snap) bam I’m there.
What is your favorite kind of music? Artist/Band?
I’ve got a very eclectic taste in music. I don’t like country, but I like bluegrass, totally old school country. I like old time reggae music. Not that reggae dub that’s popular now but just like the old timey kind of stuff. I like Bob Marley, but I’m talking about even older than that like Toots and the Maytals and Jimmy Cliff and stuff like that. Rock bands too. I love Pink Floyd.
If you won the mega millions jackpot what would you do with the money (other than paying of bills)?
I would for sure put some aside for my kids and their kids and I would travel. I would travel everywhere. I would like to go everywhere, but if I could only go to one place I would go to Australia see the Outback, the Great Barrier Reef, there’s just a lot to do there.
What is your favorite movie?
"Princess Bride." I love that movie! I can watch it a bajillion times.
Favorite TV show?
Uhh kind of dorky of course, but I love the "Big Bang Theory." I know people like that. I know a Sheldon. He’s not quite that quirky he’s a little more self-aware, but he’s so much like him. It’s hilarious.
We then discussed one of her favorite scenes from the show. Check it out below:
Do you keep a bucket list? If not what would be your #1 bucket list item if you had one?
Not really. If I did keep one my #1 item would be to travel. I try to enjoy every day as much as I can and get whatever happiness I can out of it. And don’t think I’m always just happy happy I do have my bad days, but I do my best to just enjoy everything day by day. My theory is that and I know bad things happen and you can’t always be happy, but you are as happy as you decide to be.
It is clear that Dr. Goodman is a pretty spectacular and well-liked person. I joked around with her during the interview insinuating that she must have been the “cool mom.” I asked several of Dr. Goodman’s current and former students to sum her up in one sentence and these are some of the responses I got (some couldn’t express it in one sentence):
“Dr. Goodman is a fantastic teacher who understands her students and makes the courses she teaches a lot less difficult to learn.”
“Dr. Goodman is one of the most exciting and helpful professors at D’Youville College. You can tell she really loves and knows what she’s doing with regards to organic chemistry. I would recommend her to anyone!”
“She’s like an intelligent ball of energy with a twist of smiles and adventure.”
“Dr. Goodman is one of the most passionate professors I have ever had the honor of learning from.”
“She’s an amazing, energetic, outgoing professor who loves her students!”
“Her kind and supportive nature and enthusiasm for the material motivates me to succeed!”
“The (our) dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called “truth”… she is amazing!”
It is no wonder that Dr. Goodman recently received the October Professor of the Month award from Lambda Sigma. Officers decorated her door and presented her with the award and a gift during one of her lectures. She blushed and you could see tears of happiness forming in her eyes, just another sign of how deeply she is engaged with her students and teaching. With a last name like Goodman I should have known she was pretty awesome. The name speaks for itself just throw a “wo” in there and you get good woman!