September 10, 2018

Q&A with Lisa Godwin

USAID officer Lisa Godwin provides aid in Rwanda.

Your home: Kigali, Rwanda

Your hometown: Mobile, Alabama

Tell us about your family. I am married to a Spaniard named Juan Gonzalez and we have two little girls — Gloria (age 8) and Maria del Mar (age 5).

Tell us about your educational foundation. I have a B.S. in biology from UM. I am also a family nurse practitioner with a master’s degree in nursing. I am also a trained sexual assault nurse examiner.

What is your profession? I am a foreign service officer for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). My title is health office director at USAID/Rwanda. I lead a team of 18 experts to do health programming alongside Rwanda’s Ministry of Health.

What made you choose this profession? I served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Ghana from 1994 to 1996. I was a health educator in a small village in the Ashanti Region. I then returned to the U.S. and attended graduate school at Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions and became a family nurse practitioner. Then, I worked as an FNP with underserved populations in the U.S. — in a prison, in a rural health clinic and in a free clinic for immigrants. My international interest then led me to do two missions with Doctors Without Borders, first in Zimbabwe and then in Uganda. Afterward, I worked with other non-governmental organizations in Africa, mostly providing care to people with HIV. This all led me to apply for a job with USAID. I have been with USAID as a health officer for eight years.

How did Montevallo affect your career path? Montevallo made me appreciate diversity on a deep level. This led me to join the Peace Corps, which set me on a path to continue to work internationally. The students and professors at Montevallo challenged me to think critically about the world and gave me the confidence I needed to explore that world.

What is the best advice you have received? You don’t have to know everything; that’s why you have a team. A very sage mentor at USAID taught me that, and I take it with me. No one can know how to do it all, perfectly. We must rely on each other to get to the end result and to do it well. I make sure my team is cared for, feels safe and appreciated, has all the tools they need to do the job and that they know they have my full support and protection. All the teams I have had the privilege to work with have been dedicated, caring, technically amazing individuals — and, when you give them a conducive environment, you get terrific results.

Favorite motto: Currently, it’s “Today’s the day we burn the patriarchy to the ground,” but I’ve been feeling a bit revolutionary lately.

What is your favorite Montevallo memory? That’s an easy one! Playing College Night! I loved being in the Purple cast — win or lose, we always celebrated a Purple Victory! The people I met playing College Night made a mark on my life and led me to be who I am today. That diversity I mentioned earlier, the Purple Side is truly special and wonderful.

What are your hobbies? Running, doing art with my little girls and singing in an embassy band called Neon Zebra.

What would you like to add? I recently went on a trip to the Uganda border to see mountain gorillas and it was amazing! You hike out to see the family with guides and national park rangers and then spend one hour with the gorillas. It was the experience of a lifetime. The gorillas are very peaceful and it was sort of like you’re looking at your close relative. There were two young ones who were playing and taunting each other just like kids.