President of Johnston Community College
Distinguished 1991 NC State’s College of Education Alumni
Dr. Johnson approaches his presidency at Johnson Community College with a passionate urgency, “NC State’s College of Education helped me establish my own, personal conceptual framework. Dr. Edgar Boone asked me over and over, ‘What is your conceptual framework?’ He was asking me to reflect not just on my research but on my professional practice. The conclusion I drew from my NC State preparation was, we are about changing lives and, in certain circumstances, community college leaders are about saving lives. This program allowed me to develop an appreciation for how and why I affect change to meet the real, core needs of people.”
The professors there took a personal interest in me and may have seen me as a “special project” because I was coming out of the Music Ministry and had no experience in community colleges. My analytical skills, decision making, and ability to ask penetrating questions grew immensely under the nurturing of the faculty. I was being prepared for what I now recognize as the ability to function as a strong leader in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty. My education at the College of Education opened doors of opportunity and gave me the confidence to step through those doors.
Dr. Johnson’s advice to students already enrolled or considering NC State’s College of Education is, “Get real with yourself and answer the call purposefully. If you want to be a community college leader for the fame and fortune, you will fail at both. It is who you are not what you are that impacts people. Leadership is about people and eliminating barriers which obstruct a better way of life and service. Secondly, find a way to develop your ability to influence. I often use the word influence as my one-word definition of leadership. Third, get comfortable with ambiguity. Be able to lead when the unexpected happens. Finally, remember that the dissertation is not the Great American Novel. Get it done and move on to practice your calling.”
In the late 1980’s when Dr. Johnson was considering a commitment to NC State’s College of Education community college doctoral program as a student, he measured his future leadership role against his current service to people through his music ministry. He remarked, “The faculty helped me realize that community college leadership is a ministry of a different kind. Through community college leadership, we are meeting needs, changing lives, saving lives, and providing second chances. That is so similar to my first calling, I’m just doing so by education with students, faculty, and community. I guess I’ve become a community college evangelist.
Dr. Johnson has successfully implemented the innovative one college operating model by merging academics with workforce development staffing functions at Johnston Community College. Prior to joining Johnston Community College, Dr. Johnson served as Provost on the John Daniel campus of Southside Virginia Community College, Interim Vice President of Instruction and Student Development at Wytheville Community College, as well as a series of Directorships and Dean positions.