UCSC director leads first “What Matters to Me and Why” talk of quarter

By Joann Chen

Wallace E. Goode, Jr., director of the University Community Service Center (UCSC) and an associate dean in the College, addressed an audience of University students and staff in the new Interreligious Center of Rockefeller Chapel yesterday. The talk was the year’s first in the semi-quarterly “What Matters to Me and Why” series sponsored by the Chapel.

From genocide in Darfur to sex education in Chicago public schools, Goode articulated his concern for issues facing both the local community and the world as a whole. In narrowing down what genuinely mattered to him, Goode said that students are his true passion and described his role as an educator in many of his former posts, including one in the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development.

A Woodlawn native, Goode attributed much of his enthusiasm for education to his early experiences with the University of Chicago. He recalled being caught trying to pass as a University student in Ida Noyes because his Converse All-Stars were “too hip” for any U of C student to be wearing.

Not all of his interactions with the University were positive, however. Saying that “being an African American in Chicago is hard,” he said he remembered being kicked off campus by a police officer who told him he did not belong there.

Goode frequently referred to issues of race in Hyde Park. He told the audience that since his return to the neighborhood, he was stopped once by campus security on a day he did not wear a business suit. Goode explained his efforts to raise race awareness in the student body and his more general attempts to teach what he called “cross-cultural dexterity.”

Goode said he developed this skill in university positions he held around the country, as well as in two Peace Corps missions, which he described as “the most powerful thing ever done.”

He said that all of his experiences had taught him how to be “a better fighter,” assuring the audience that “the issues will find you.”

Toward the end of the discussion, several audience members said they attended the talk to search for ways to help their communities and the world around them. Goode then capped the discussion with a quote from early civil rights leader Dr. Vernon Johns: “If you see a good fight, get in it.”