Gwinnett Technical College Announces Its “Rick Perkins Award” Winner as Susan Arnold

Gwinnett Technical College’s Susan Arnold knows the struggles her students have in reaching their goals. The program director of the college’s Interiors Program worked full time while she attended graduate school at Georgia State, proving that the life, work, school balance can be reached – a fact she shares with her students.

“As a career changer who attended graduate school while working full time, I have great empathy for the students who follow their path to a fulfilling career,” Arnold said. “The challenges are great. The ability to reach their goals requires support, mentoring and skills which I am honored to share with our students along their path.”

It is her love for teaching, her skills as a mentor and her ability to relate to her students that has earned Arnold the title of Gwinnett Technical College’s winner of the 2016 Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Instruction, a statewide program initiated by the Technical College System of Georgia to honor outstanding instructors at the system’s 22 member institutions. Arnold will now compete against the winners from Georgia’s other technical colleges at the regional level.

Arnold first came to Gwinnett Tech in what was then a fashion merchandising program in 1987. Originally from North Carolina, she had studied fashion, design, and marketing education at Winthrop College and moved to Atlanta in the mid-1970s. She began her career in the region at Macy’s in designer purchasing, leading her to open Susan Arnold Interiors in 1975.

“Interior Design creates spaces in which clients live and work,” explained Arnold. “It is a study of the needs and requirements of clients that designers serve.  It requires analysis, excellent listening and communication skills.” 

As a business owner, Arnold began to appreciate the value of entrepreneurship and wanted to help others learn about business marketing and selling. Taking that knowledge and her education, she began teaching marketing education at Tucker High School where she led the program to county, state and national recognition. Through her graduate school, she learned of the need for a program director at Gwinnett Technical College. After taking on that role, Arnold developed and implemented the Interiors Program at Gwinnett Tech, following a study of career needs in the county. That program was the first of its kind in Georgia.

 “My goal is to help our students stretch and find their very best self,” she said. “Many helped me along my educational and career path. I certainly hope to continue that legacy of giving.”

The Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Instruction began in 1991 and is designed to recognize and honor technical college instructors who make significant contributions to technical education through innovation and leadership in their fields. Formerly known as the Commissioner’s Award of Excellence, the Rick Perkins Award was renamed in memory and honor of Thomas “Rick” Perkins, an instructor at West Central Technical College, who received the Commissioner’s Award immediately prior to his untimely death.

Gwinnett Technical College offers more than 150 degree, diploma and certificate program options that can be completed in two years or less. For more information, visit or call 770-962-7580.