AZ Ed Department's Communications Director Miscommunicated He Had a Degree

Left: Dan Godzich never graduated from Hunter College in New York. Right: Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas brought Godzich on board in June.
Left: Dan Godzich never graduated from Hunter College in New York. Right: Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas brought Godzich on board in June. Hunter College; Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Dan Godzich is in charge of communications for the Arizona Department of Education, but his social media pages and an official press release fudged his own educational history. Godzich does not actually have a college degree.

In a June 23 press release announcing his appointment as the Director of Communications for the Department of Education, the department lauded Godzich as a "graduate of Hunter College in New York."

Similarly, at press time, on Godzich’s LinkedIn page, the education section lists a B.S. in Film and Media Production from City University of New York – Hunter College. And on a Facebook page that belongs to Godzich, under education, it notes for the viewing public that Godzich was "Class of 1984" at Hunter College.

In reality, Godzich attended Hunter College, but he never graduated.

When pressed for an explanation, Godzich said that he didn't complete distribution requirements — specific subject areas such as sociology or math — and as a result, he does not have a bachelor's degree. He completed his major requirements, Godzich insisted, but left the school to start working before he finished the general requirements needed to earn a degree.

So why did this information go out in a press release? When asked, Godzich told Phoenix New Times, “That was a mistake on my part; it shouldn’t have been that way. I’ve addressed that with people, and that was incorrect.”  

When asked about LinkedIn, Godzich says that this, too — surprise! — was a mistake. Godzich says he intends to correct his social media page, which, for all intents and purposes, telegraphs to employers and colleagues that Godzich is a college graduate.

As for his Facebook profile, Godzich explained that he “would have been” a member of the class of 1984 at Hunter College, had he completed his requirements needed for graduation.

If you're confused at this point, you're not alone. It makes no sense for a guy in charge of communications — at the Education Department, no less — to admit, contrary to a release and his own personal branding online, that he doesn't actually have a degree.

More puzzling still is that according to an ADE spokesman, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas and Chief of Staff Michael Bradley apparently knew that Godzich did not have a degree when they hired him.

click to enlarge Godzich's LinkedIn profile on July 25 lists a B.S. degree from Hunter College. - LINKEDIN
Godzich's LinkedIn profile on July 25 lists a B.S. degree from Hunter College.
ADE Public Information Officer Stefan Swiat told New Times that Godzich was upfront about his lack of a college degree during the hiring process before Godzich joined the department in June. The lack of a degree did not affect his candidacy for the position.

It bears repeating: a position in the Department of Education.

“This was disclosed to us at the ADE, and ADE was completely aware of this status,” Swiat said. “And 20-plus years of service in politics and government is why he was hired.”

The question, then: Why did false information make it into an official press release on June 23?

In the release, Douglas wrote, “I am excited to welcome Dan to my team and work with him on communications for all of the exciting initiatives we have at ADE. In addition to his time in Arizona, his experience in Washington D.C. with media and policy will no doubt serve ADE well.”

Godzich chalked up false educational credentials on the press release to his own lack of oversight on the matter.

“It was a mistake on my part, and the press release went out before I was officially on board, and I hadn’t reviewed it before it went out,” he said. Before joining the Department of Education, Godzich was an education policy adviser and a senior adviser to the majority leader in the Arizona House of Representatives. Before that, he worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is listed as a contributing author, with Doug Wead, on the autobiography of an entrepreneur, Michael Fitzgerald.

Godzich comes from an influential Arizona family. John Godzich, a former finance chairman for the Arizona Republican party, is Dan Godzich’s brother. Another Godzich brother, the late Reverend Leo Godzich, was a prominent pastor at Phoenix First Assembly of God Church.

Godzich's personal website describes this public relations and political background. His "about" section states that he has “extensive experience in public relations, corporate communications and strategy, reputation management, and political strategy” and is “a public image expert."

Apparently, "public image" expertise doesn't require a degree.

Antonia Noori Farzan contributed reporting.
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Joseph Flaherty is a staff writer at New Times. Originally from Wisconsin, he is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Contact: Joseph Flaherty