(Media release from Georgia Northwestern Technical College):

Two men turned to Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) mid-career, furthering their knowledge of Business Management to advance along very different career paths.

Darren Goodwin, a native of Acworth, took Business Management classes at GNTC’s Floyd County Campus in Rome and online and graduated with his associate degree in December 2022. He has worked in the air conditioning business for 22 years, 15 of those with Daikin Applied.

Casey Hunter enrolled in the Business Management program at GNTC’s Walker County Campus in Rock Spring and earned his associate degree in May 2021. He has worked for Mohawk Industries since 1995.

“I am a nontraditional student,” Goodwin said. “In 2018 I transferred positions in my company. My manager asked if I was college educated. I told him I was not. He urged me to take the step and get my degree.”

Goodwin said he has been “’hyper-focused” on completing his degree at GNTC and that he is still weighing his options about which college he will attend for his bachelor’s degree. He feels the specialized business classes he took at GNTC will help him move forward.

“Principles of Leadership and Team Project stand out to me as ones that I can use moving to the next level of my education,” he said.

Hunter’s motivation to attend college echoed Goodwin’s.

“I began getting promoted slowly,” said Hunter, who has lived in the Trion/Summerville area all his life. He started off as an entry-level lift truck driver. From there, he moved to various jobs, including operator, crew leader, supervisor and then production manager.

“I liked doing that type of work and want to continue progressing with Mohawk,” he said. “A degree could possibly open doors for me in the future.”

Hunter selected GNTC because of the Business Management program’s affordability and being completely online.

Hunter, now senior production manager, said he oversees four different processes and the stockroom; his duties include all production, quality and safety aspects of those areas.

“My coursework at GNTC taught me different management techniques and a better understanding about the different aspects of being a manager,” he explained.

Goodwin moved into in his current group in 2018 and was promoted in April 2022 to Daikin Applied Americas’ technical response supervisor/senior regional technical analyst for Chiller Technical Response. He described being in leadership at the local level of his company as his “first foray” into leading people.

“I learned a lot—mostly what not to do,” Goodwin said. “When I began my studies at GNTC, I really moved into a cerebral direction of leadership. The book knowledge goes along with my experiential knowledge; it was like sharpening the blade of a knife.”

Goodwin’s team supports technicians in the field who work on chillers manufactured by Daikin.

“I am one of 12 that support more than 400 techs domestically and more than 400 internationally,” he said.

Because Hunter completed his classes online, he had less interaction than students taking classes on campus do with instructors. His final project for his Business Management Team Project class in spring 2021 tested his abilities; his instructor for the class was Graceful Beam, assistant dean of Business, Cyber and Public Service Technologies.

“Working with other students that I didn’t know and creating our business from scratch was a challenge at the time,” he said.   

“Casey has the maturity of a non-traditionally-aged student but doesn’t let that separate him from the other students,” Beam said, adding that he excels and delights in his classes. “He embraces the opportunity to both teach and learn from other students.”

Beam shared that Hunter’s teammates characterized him as determined, encouraging, willing to help whenever needed and willing to go above and beyond in his part of the project.

Goodwin also praised Beam and Pam Anderson, assistant dean and chair of Mathematics at GNTC, for playing a pivotal role in his academic progress.

“Grace is a rock star instructor,” he said. “Pam Anderson in the General Education and Mathematics Department really helped me reach back to remember Algebra early on.”

Beam said Goodwin’s interpersonal and communication skills impressed her. She noted his professionalism, friendliness, openness and attention to detail.

“Darren gave great feedback about the classes and how they looked from a student perspective,” Beam said. “He helped me catch some errors in my class because he was always the first one completing the assignments.”

Goodwin demonstrated strong leadership skills in his classes and was able to bring out the best in his classmates through his mentorship and leadership skills. He demonstrated his commitment to high performance; how he did one thing is how he did everything, she explained.

“We have certainly seen a positive change in Darren as a result of his education at GNTC,” said Andrew Parlier, Daikin Applied’s Chillers technical support manager. “Darren was already a strong performer within the organization, having previous leadership experience.”

While Goodwin was pursuing his degree with GNTC, he was promoted to supervisor.

“One consideration for that promotion was the fact that Darren was committed to higher education,” Parlier said. “Leaders within any organization want to promote like-minded individuals, people that care for others and have a vision. His studies at GNTC helped to strengthen Darren’s foundation and will be a springboard to future opportunities.”

Hunter’s supervisors Mark Dye, Recycling Division vice president, and Jimmy Tapp, senior plant manager, said they are pleased that he is being recognized for his accomplishments at GNTC, calling him “a valuable and widely-respected member” of Mohawk’s Summerville management team.

“We have had the pleasure of watching Casey grow, both personally and professionally, over his 27 years with the company,” they said in a joint statement. “It is obvious that his educational experience at GNTC has complimented his naturally strong work ethic and advanced technical aptitude. Casey has developed into a professional and competent leader within the Mohawk organization and the Chattooga County community.”

Hunter said in addition to helping him advance his career, he believes his experience at GNTC has boosted his self-esteem.

“My degree has given me a sense of accomplishment simply because I completed what I set out to do,” he said. “I began college right out of high school but didn’t finish. I am proud of the fact that I was able to go back and complete my associate degree.”