Dean Johnson to focus on student experience

by Emily Fletcher | 8/8/11 10:00pm

New Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson, the former vice president and dean of Colgate University, assumed her new role at Dartmouth on July 21. Johnson replaced former acting Dean of the College Sylvia Spears, who stepped down on June 30.

As dean of the College, Johnson will first set specific goals and determine where she can have the greatest impact on the student experience, she said in an interview with The Dartmouth. Her plan will be based on conversations with students, administrators, faculty members and other members of the Dartmouth community, she said.

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

Provost Carol 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. Strategic planning is a process that will address initiatives to support the faculty, "strengthen and develop [the College's] curriculum" and enhance aspects of students' education that they consider most important, Folt previously told The Dartmouth.

The administration hopes to release recommendations from this phase of strategic planning which is currently an ongoing process 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. Under Johnson's leadership, Colgate's dean of the college division created an emergency management team and a team focused on drug and alcohol use, The Dartmouth previously reported.

Johnson also helped craft a set of community standards and expectations at Colgate, including cultural competence, global citizenship, civic engagement, diversity and inclusivity, partnership and collaboration, leadership and wellness and ethical decision-making and accountability.

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

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 official 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.

Her time as director of academic services at the University of Michigan and as 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 in an interview with The Dartmouth.

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.

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.

Folt became acting provost in October 2009 and assumed the role permanently in May 2010. She has been a member of the Dartmouth faculty since 1983 and was a biology professor before joining the administration.

The provost is "Dartmouth's second ranking officer and is directly responsible for overseeing the academic integrity, educational and research programs of the institution, including the three professional schools and Arts & Sciences," according to the College press release announcing her appointment.

Folt's goal upon assuming the position was returning the provost's role back to that of the College's chief academic office, College President Jim Yong Kim said in a previous interview with The Dartmouth. Folt also leads strategic planning, she said in a previous interview with The Dartmouth.

The provost reports directly to Kim, the College's 17th president who took office in July 2009.

Kim is a former director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS division and previously served as chair of the department of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School. Known for his research on drug-resistant tuberculosis, Kim was also a co-founder of Partners in Health, a non-profit organization that provides medical care to low-income communities around the world.

In his first two years as president, Kim worked to close a $100 million budget deficit, establish the Center for Health Care Delivery Science, create the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking and restructure the administration.

The new health care center, created with a $35-million anonymous donation, introduced a master's degree program through the Tuck School of Business and will offer health care-related classes to undergraduates. The Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking was created in May 2011 to allow the 32 member institutions to work together to combat dangerous behavior due to high-risk drinking.

Other administrators reporting directly to Kim include Mastanduno, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Steven Kadish and Chief of Staff David Spalding '76.

Mastanduno, a government professor who has worked at the College since 1987, oversees approximately 40 academic departments including interdisciplinary programs and graduate studies and over 400 faculty members.

The administration is overseen by the Board of Trustees, which consists of the College president and 24 other trustees, 16 of whom are Charter Trustees, nominated and elected by the Board itself, and eight of whom are Alumni Trustees, nominated by the alumni and elected by the Board, according to the Board's website. The governor of New Hampshire also holds an ex officio position on the Board.