Global Heel: Kat Goodpaster

By. Madison Van Horn, UNC Global Affairs

Kat Goodpaster in front of the FedEx Global Education Center.

Kat Goodpaster in front of the FedEx Global Education Center. (Photo by Madison Van Horn)

From Global Scholar to assistant director of the Russian Flagship Program, Kat Goodpaster has prioritized pursuing a global education and helping others navigate the intricate web of international learning.

Growing up, Goodpaster’s family found joy in learning new languages and expanding their global knowledge, a foundation that would lead Kat to excel in her future career path.

“We have a large multiethnic family so language learning is something that we take very seriously,” said Kat’s father, Jeremiah Goodpaster. “With it comes a deeper understanding and appreciation of not just each other but cultures around the world.”

When Kat was in high school in Raeford, North Carolina, her father started learning Russian and challenged Kat to do so as well.

“When one of us is learning a new language, we label the house with sticky notes so all the words become second nature,” Jeremiah said. “It forces the language to be front and center as well as easier to use in everyday language.”

With a strong foundation in global education, Goodpaster enrolled in The Scholar of Global Distinction Program at SandHoke Early College High School. Taking globally intensive courses and partaking in international dialogues fueled Goodpaster’s passion for learning and set the stage for her future in global education.

The Scholar of Global Distinction program is a partnership between community colleges and UNC World View that allows students to earn a “Graduated with Global Distinction” notation on their transcripts by gaining global experience and understanding.

Goodpaster dove into college classes as a sophomore, aiming to complete an associate degree alongside her high school diploma. This early exposure fueled her curiosity, eventually leading her to the National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship and a transformative six-week study abroad experience in Moscow that not only honed her Russian language skills but also fostered personal growth and resilience.

Returning home, Goodpaster harnessed her newfound insights, crafting a capstone project on the Russian government’s media monopoly. With half of her college credits completed and a newfound passion for Russian language and culture, Goodpaster set her sights on Chapel Hill.

She knew her time on campus would be shorter than the average college student, but that didn’t stop her from making the most of her time at Carolina. Goodpaster majored in Peace War and Defense and minored in Russian, filling her extra hours with leadership positions and campus recreation.

However, her ambitious path faced a unique challenge — she was set to complete her bachelor’s degree at the age of 19.

Goodpaster felt that she needed more life and work experience to apply for careers in national security, so she decided to continue her education at Carolina in the Global Studies master’s program, concentrating in Russian and Eastern Europe.

While working toward her master’s degree, Goodpaster embraced a role as the program assistant for the Russian Flagship Program (RFP), setting the stage for her future endeavors.

As the threads of her academic and professional journey wove together, Goodpaster found inspiration in her capstone project, expanding it into a master’s thesis on the Russian government’s use of conspiracy theory and surveillance to justify its actions.

Just as her academic journey was coming to an end, an unexpected opportunity arose — the position of assistant director for the RFP.

“I thought it was kind of too good of an opportunity to turn down,” Goodpaster said. “Since going abroad myself, I have been very passionate about international education. So, for me it kind of made sense to take that next step, rather than going into the government, to go and be the assistant director for the RFP.”

Her commitment to international education remains unwavering. From advising students on critical language scholarship applications to orchestrating program events, Goodpaster wears multiple hats. Her days are a kaleidoscope of activities, from collaborating with Russian Flagship Programs nationwide to reading applications and making decisions on prospective students.

“Kat’s work ethic is simply incredible,” said Sebastian Farris, 2022-23 Student Ambassador for the RFP. “Her organizational skills are otherworldly, and I think it stems from true passion — a genuine care for the RFP’s mission to turn standard undergraduate students into globally literate professionals. If you want a job done efficiently and well, call up Kat.”

Goodpaster envisions a career in national security someday, a path shaped by her interactions with the Diplomacy Initiative at UNC. The series of Diplomatic Discussions opened her eyes to the diverse career paths within foreign affairs, sparking a keen interest in diplomacy.

“It’s important to know about the world and about other cultures, to be more respectful, to have more cultural understanding, and to be able to overcome boundaries and barriers, in order to really understand people,” Goodpaster said.

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