From designing Navy welding curriculum to embracing a Universal Design for Learning as a Goodwin welding instructor, professor and PhD candidate, Keith Carter, MHR, MSW shares his journey to becoming an expert in his field.
Keith Carter’s welding students didn’t want to break for the day after their morning class let out. A typical reaction to Carter’s classes, and something that the welding instructor says he works to cultivate after his experience in welding school back in 1989.
“It was the most tedious school,” Carter said of his time in the US Navy’s nuclear power welding school. “I said, ‘Knock on wood, I would never do a program like that again.”
True to his word, Carter—Assistant Professor of Welding at Goodwin College—never did, and he now has the eager students begging to work through lunch to prove it. “That’s the type of environment we want,” Carter said. “Where our students are learning, and they love to learn.”
From the Shipyard to the Navy
Now helping design one of the strongest welding education programs in the northeast, Carter’s career began as a welder’s helper in a shipyard in the 1980’s right out of high school. “The welders there said I was too young to be a welder’s helper. I should join the military,” Carter said.
During a discussion with his mother about his future, the US Army’s “Be All You Can Be” commercial drew his attention. He decided at that moment to join up to meet his full potential. Coincidentally, Carter said, a Navy recruiter called his home that very same day. He met with the recruiter that afternoon and signed up to join the US Navy.
He served aboard a ship as a hull maintenance technician (HT), learning the basics on the job of how to weld. After his first tour, he got ready to reenlist only to be approached by his mentor, the ship’s Master Chief who told young man he was heading to nuclear power welding school. The Master Chief told the career counselor that he needed to have Carter in welding school the next day. So in 1988, Keith Carter found himself deployed to nuclear power welding school in San Diego, California.
That class—the one Carter would later refer to as “the most tedious school”—started with 17 people, and ended with three graduates. Afterwards, with no immediate orders, he worried about keeping that certification in the Navy. “Everybody was walking around with orders, but I didn’t get orders,” Carter said. “I was worried.”
Every day, he would walk in to the office to see if he had gotten his orders yet. Eventually, he was brought in and told that he needed to sit for an interview with the Master Chief and the department head. Carter was told he was being sent back to school, only this time it was to teach. “I graduated weld school and then got sent to teach right away. That’s something that happened once, and probably never happened again in the Navy,” Carter joked.
Designing the Navy’s Welding Curriculum
Carter found himself at the submarine school in Groton, just as they were moving into their new facilities. “They were moving into their new building, their new facilities,” Carter said. “They were redoing the entire weld program, including a brand new lab.”
As a new instructor, Carter helped set up the Navy’s lab, restructure the program, and rewrite the curriculum. “I got a few awards for writing tests, writing curriculum,” Carter said.
While he was in Groton, he furthered his skill set by earning master training specialist. After helping get the new program off the ground, Carter returned to the fleet to do course design for quality assurance and run production for weld shops. After 4-5 years of being out of the Groton school house, he returned to again redesign the Navy’s weld courses.
As lead instructor for the Navy’s weld courses in Groton, he worked with alongside instructors in King’s Bay Georgia to design the best curriculum possible. “A young man I actually mentored when he first came into the Navy was lead instructor in King’s Bay,” Carters said. “So together we basically synchronized the courses, and we did a lot of restructuring. And we actually got an award for rewriting the test for those courses during that time period.”
Under his lead, Carter led a group of people to 100% master training specialist before returning to Guam to run manufacturing shops, including powder coating, sheet metal, and pipe welding. Eventually, he returned to Groton for the last time to teach leadership.
Bringing Welding Expertise to Goodwin College
After his naval career, Carter began working on earning his PhD. During a conversation about becoming a professor with his family, Carter’s daughter told him he needed to do what he loved: welding.
“One day she came in my office and said, ‘Dad, I’ve got an idea,’” Carter said. “‘Go back to your roots. Go back to welding and teach welding. You like working outside. You like doing things in your workshop. You should teach welding.’”
Serendipity was once again on Carter’s side, as with the naval recruitment phone call of his youth; just a few days talking to his daughter, Goodwin College posted a job opening for a welding instructor position. And Carter was the perfect fit for Goodwin’s career-focused, student-oriented atmosphere.
“Right now I’m focusing on building one of the strongest [welding] programs in this area,” Carter said. Along with his fellow welding instructor Jason Sagaci, the two have created a unique course that drives students to success by combining two types of welding: sculpture with a welding background, and navy nuclear welding with a process background.
“We bring together two unique styles of welding that students probably won’t get at another weld school,” Carter said.
The program is designed to engage students, excite them, and give them the skills that they need to succeed in the field. Through Universal Design for Learning, Carter said he has developed skills to engage every kind of student learner.
“I love that fact that we have UDL here, because not everybody is a lecturer type of learner or just a standard learner,” Carter said. “There are other ways of teaching, and I like the fact that [Goodwin] embraces Universal Design for Learning.”
Carter wants to make sure that his first experience in welding school isn’t the experience his students have. “When I went to weld school, I think that was the most stressful thing ever,” Carter said. “Here, we make it so students can enjoy what they’re doing.”
“We want our students to focus on the good of why they are learning,” Carter said. “Anybody can weld. But when you teach welding for success, you’re teaching a different type of welding.”
Goodwin College is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin College was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.