Riley C. Goodman was eating dinner with friends when his phone started buzzing with congratulatory text messages.
The 20-year-old from Catonsville thought the kind words were referring to his summer job that he recently got.
It turns out, he was wrong.
Goodman, a rising junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, was named Most Outstanding Sophomore by the school's photography and film department for the recent school year.
He was caught off guard by the news.
"I was really happy about it because it made me feel like all the hard I've been putting forth this year was worth it," he said. "Even if I hadn't been awarded it, I wouldn't regret putting forth the extra effort in my work, but it was nice to kind of be recognized for it."
Goodman got into photography during his sophomore year at Catonsville High School. While he enjoyed drawing, photography served as a way for him to communicate messages he couldn't convey through sketching.
He enjoys the conceptual side of the art form and how he can evoke emotions through people and context.
"I think it's a great way to communicate a message," he said. "I really enjoy having the ability to make something instant but also considering all the forethought that goes into it."
A favorite photo he took this year came from a 1970s-inspired project. He did research to tie in the imagery and photographic styles of the time and took a photo of his friend, leaving ambiguity as to whether the character was just in a hurry or running from something.
The award is based on faculty nominations for a student who shows outstanding leadership, integrity, involvement in the department and "sheer moxie."
As for what "sheer moxie" is, Goodman had a guess.
"If I had to think about what that equates to, I guess it's just going the extra mile or bringing something extra to the table," he said.
Goodman is majoring in photography and minoring in history at VCU. The gap between those subject areas is smaller than he originally thought, he said. He also shoots photos for the school newspaper.
His work was featured this year at the VCUarts Undergraduate Juried Show in March. More than 400 works were considered for the show, and 70 were chosen, including two of Goodman's.
Through an internship with the Howard County Heritage Center this summer, he hopes to combine his passions for photography and American history through museum curation. He'll work with artifacts that the center has acquired from archaeological digs and photograph them. After college, he's interested in museum curation and exhibition design, though he is willing to keep an open mind and see where his work will take him.