Johnson to replace Spears as dean of the College

by Emily Fletcher | 5/31/11 10:00pm

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by Samantha Oh and Samantha Oh / The Dartmouth

Provost Carol Folt will oversee the Dean of the College's office in the period between Spears' departure and Johnson's transition, but the senior members of the office will continue to manage the daily operations of the division, Folt said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

Johnson said that as dean of the College she will create specific goals and determine where she "can be most impactful in terms of the student experience" after speaking with students, administrators, faculty members and other members of the Dartmouth community.

"I think it's better that I get to know the community and then figure out where to go from there," she said.

Folt said that in addition to meeting with students, faculty members and community members, one of Johnson's first responsibilities on campus will be to help launch a new phase of strategic planning for the College that incorporates student input. The administration hopes to release recommendations from this phase of strategic planning which is an ongoing process at the College in roughly 16 to 18 months, according to Folt.

At Colgate, Johnson oversaw the completion of the strategic planning process for Colgate's dean of the college division, according to Colgate's Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Scott Brown, who has worked with Johnson since January 2008.

Throughout the strategic planning process, Johnson sought to "crystallize an identity for the division," define the goals of the dean of the college office and clearly determine the strategies to reach those goals, she said.

Johnson who joined the Colgate administration at the start of the 2006-2007 academic year updated the university's residential education plan to "reframe the co-curricular experience" and created new policies regarding binge drinking, she said. She also led Colgate's implementation of new sexual assault policies focusing on education, peer intervention and fair judicial processes for reported sexual assault cases, she said.

Under Johnson's leadership, Colgate's dean of the college division created an emergency management team and an alcohol and other drugs team, Brown said. Johnson also helped craft a set of community standards and expectations which include cultural competence, global citizenship, civic engagement, diversity and inclusivity, partnership and collaboration, leadership and wellness and ethical decision-making and accountability, according to Brown.

Johnson oversaw a "well-run division" at Colgate and focused on collaboration and internal assessment to ensure that the dean of the college office successfully implemented policies to improve student life, Brown said.

Brown, who worked in Dartmouth's Office of Residential Life from 1992 to 1995, said Johnson's transition to the College will be successful due to the similarities between Dartmouth and Colgate.

"I think she's an educational decathlete who can do all the things you need a dean to do," he said. "She thinks deeply and hard about what's best for the institution."

A 12-member search committee comprised of student leaders, professors and administrators and chaired by Dean of the Faculty Michael Mastanduno selected Johnson as the new dean, according to a College press release.

"[Johnson] is a visionary leader in the field of student affairs," College President Jim Yong Kim said in the press release. "Her thoughtful and extremely effective approach to her work at Colgate is widely respected, and we're thrilled that she's agreed to join our team at Dartmouth."

Brown said that other institutions have tried to recruit Johnson in the past, and that he believes Johnson accepted the position at Dartmouth because it is an "exciting" time at the College.

"I think it's an extraordinary opportunity for someone who's interested in leading a student affairs division," he said.

Johnson said she is looking forward to the transition from Colgate to Dartmouth and to working closely with Kim and Folt.

"Both institutions place a lot of emphasis on bridging what happens in the classroom and what happens outside of the classroom," she said.

The dean of the College reports directly to Folt and oversees student support services, counseling services, campus life programs, dining services, health services, judicial affairs and campus safety.

Born in Birmingham, Ala., and raised in Flint, Mich., Johnson received her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Detroit in 1985. After receiving her J.D. from the University of Michigan in 1988, Johnson worked as the first African-American female partner at the Detroit law firm Garan Lucow Miller, where she focused on defense litigation, according to Colgate's website.

Johnson became the director of academic services at the University of Michigan in 1997. She later served as the assistant dean of student affairs at the University of Michigan Law School, overseeing student organizations, policies, budget management and disciplinary codes, according to Colgate's website.

Johnson's time as director of academic services at the University of Michigan and assistant dean of student affairs at the University of Michigan Law School gave her "deep and broad" experience that can be applied to Dartmouth, Folt said.

At Michigan, she also served on the steering committee for the Center for Institutional Diversity and helped develop legal strategies to defend the university's admissions system, according to Colgate's website.

Johnson received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Service from the National Bar Association in 2008, according to the press release.

Johnson is not the first Colgate dean to transition to Dartmouth, as former Colgate Dean of the College Lee Pelton joined the College as dean in September 1991, The Dartmouth previously reported. Pelton served as Dartmouth's dean of students from 1991 to 1998, before becoming president of Willamette University in 1998 and later becoming the first African-American president of Emerson College in 2010.

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