University of Delaware Honors College and Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics alumna Courtney Smith Goodrich was recently recognized by UD Honors College as part of the Chajes Family Distinguished Honors Alumni Award Series. Smith Goodrich learned important lessons at UD, which have traveled through life with her. One of them was to look outside of herself and her own lived experiences and to consider people who are different, which she learned in a class called Racism, Sexism and Speciesism.
Considering her current role as chief administrative officer for consumer lending at Wells Fargo, where Smith Goodrich oversees a team of more than 2,000 people, being taught to empathize and strive to see things from other peoples’ perspective was invaluable.
“I think I literally signed up for the class because there were very few things left, but obviously 30 years later you can see the impact that it had. I’m obviously leveraging it every single day of my career, of my life,” said Smith Goodrich, who earned her bachelor of science in business management in 1993 and a master of public administration in fiscal management in 1995, both from UD.
It was a much appreciated balance, she said, of the hard skills she learned in Lerner’s classrooms, and other soft skills she gathered outside of the school’s hallowed halls that taught her to be a productive member of society and her community.
What that has looked like post-University of Delaware is that Smith Goodrich has maintained a relationship with the school ever since she left, including serving on the President’s Leadership Council which advises UD President Dennis Assanis.
The Distinguished Honors Alumni Award Lecture Series brings prominent honors alumni back to campus to share their career accomplishments and life lessons with current honors students. Smith Goodrich was cited for being a skillful mentor and a successful executive.
The lecture series happens once each semester and is presented via keynote lectures, day-in-residence programs, class visits, small group meals, panel presentations and ice cream socials. Spring semester speakers are always from the medical field and fall lectures range from business to the arts.
All distinguished alumni are selected by Honors College Dean Michael Chajes, whose family established the endowment for the lecture series. It honors Alexander and Michael Chajes, who dedicated their careers to teaching and mentoring students.
“I have been fortunate to have worked collaboratively with Courtney for many years, and was so pleased to be able to honor her career achievements through this distinguished Honors alumni award,” Chajes said.
Chajes said that Smith Goodrich has a passion for helping students succeed and that she is a very skillful mentor. Recognizing her was a no-brainer.
“I was amazed at how much insightful guidance Courtney was able to share with our students, things like never stop learning, maintaining a healthy work-life balance and finding one’s own personal advisory board to serve as a sounding board for challenging decisions,” he said.
The ceremony was held at Vita Nova, where Smith Goodrich sat for a fireside chat with Chajes. She also mingled with students, faculty and staff afterward during a reception. She shared several nuggets of advice for students, which have guided her career.
“One is something that I call the kindergarten rules, which is no matter what stage you are in life, personally or professionally, whether you’re starting your career, in the middle or end, there’s a certain set of things we learning in kindergarten that just ring true in every stage of our life,” Smith Goodrich said. “And that’s things like, you say please, you say thank you, you say you’re sorry. It sounds basic, but it’s so true, and throughout my career I’ve noticed where people can really go awry is when they forget those things.”
Another suggestion Smith Goodrich said she gives to students is to make sure to cultivate a circle of mentors and sponsors to seek out for advice on career and personal challenges that you encounter in life.
“I sometimes refer to them as having your own personal board of directors,” Smith Goodrich said. And she encourages students who are just starting out in their professional lives to make sure that their personal board of directors is diverse in life experiences, which can offer broader perspectives versus just seeking counsel from one person.
“It’s really important, because otherwise when you’re going to a mentor and sponsor for advice, they’re just parroting back to you what you think, rather than really looking at it from a different perspective and giving you a different view on the challenge or the decision you’re trying to make,” Smith Goodrich said.