Suzanne M. Johnson, Ph.D.: Presidential Candidate bio

Suzanne M. Johnson, Ph.D., vice president of academic affairs at Suffolk County Community College in New York was the last candidate interviewed for the position of college president on April 13.

Originally from Missouri, Johnson started as a college student in New York and fell in love with teaching. She earned her B.A. at Ithaca College in 1983, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Art History. After that, Johnson moved on to the State University of New York at Stony Brook and earned her M.A. in Psychology and Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology in 1987 and 1990, respectively.

Johnson began her career as a psychology instructor at Dowling College in Long Island, New York back in 1988 and worked her way up to become the Dean of the College in 2012. She has also taught 11 different psychology courses and earned seven awards in her time at Dowling College, including a Professor of the Year award in 1994 given by Dowling College’s Program for Learning Disabled College Students. In addition, Johnson has written two books on gay parenthood, one of which earned a Gold Award from Foreword Magazine for best parenting book of 2001 from a University Press.

Johnson also has presidential experience, as she served as the Interim Campus President of the Sylvania Campus of Portland Community College in Portland, Oregon. With over 20 years of administration and faculty experience in higher education, Johnson is considered a strong candidate for the position based on the qualifications laid out by the college in its search.

The Student Forum on April 13 provided Johnson with an opportunity to connect with students, and she did not disappoint. Johnson began with a brief introduction about herself. She was in the classroom for many years and wanted to find other ways to best serve students, so she moved to the administration.

“I am now seeking to be the next president of this wonderful college,” Johnson said.

Johnson proceeded to walk around to the tables of the Student Union Grand Hall and casually introducing herself to the students, asking them questions and connecting with them on a personal level. This gave the students a chance to have their voices heard. She took the time to learn something about us as students.

As for the Faculty and Staff Forum, Johnson had a strong showing, taking questions and answering them thoughtfully.

Johnson said that she had once asked herself how she wanted to spend the rest of her life, as she had realized she had less time to live than she had already lived. “One thing I knew I wanted to continue to do was to work toward social justice, to work toward opportunity creation for students and completely continue to be focused on student success” Johnson said.

 Johnson said that in her time as Interim President at Portland Community College, that she fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. To her, it had a civility and rhythm to it, with weather that reminded her of her childhood. She always told herself that if she ever had the opportunity to be able to live her life out, in terms of a region of country, it would be in the pacific northwest.

“There’s so many opportunities, so much possibility,” Johnson said of Green River College. “There’s clearly good stuff happening here.” 

Johnson made it clear that this was the only job she applied for this year.

“I’m looking for a place to be a part of a team,” Johnson said. “I was looking for an opportunity, not the next job.”

Johnson emphasized her commitment to student success and diversity, and feels that she and the staff at Green River have that in common. She is also committed to the community college mission. “We are the ones who provide access to higher education and employment opportunities, regardless of capacity to pay,” Johnson said.

“That is an aspect of equity that I’ve invested the rest of my life to do,” Johnson said. “I think this would be a great place to partner with all of you to do it.”

Many staff members addressed their concern with the previous administration in terms of layoffs and how they operated. Johnson assured the staff that she would be committed to help heal any feelings of mistrust left over from previous administration.

“Without trust, without mutual regard and respect, without understanding, we can’t get anywhere,” Johnson said.

Johnson is prepared to work with staff and address any of their concerns with a policy of transparency and open and honest communication.

“I am not separate from you,” Johnson said. “I am part of you, and you are part of me.” {Pull quote} 

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