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Thursday, May 3, 2018

COE’s Dean Johnson to Retire in June

Dean Joseph F. Johnson, Jr.
After more than 30 years in education, Dean Johnson will be starting a new chapter.

Dr. Joseph F. Johnson, Jr., will leave his position as dean of the College of Education in June.

“I have especially enjoyed the opportunity to help individuals grow in their roles as students, staff, or faculty,” said Johnson, COE’s dean since 2013 and is also the interim deal of San Diego State University’s College of Extended Studies. “I have enjoyed helping so many caring, committed individuals pursue their personal and professional goals.”

A San Diego native, Dean Johnson has been an educator for more than 30 years and has had an accomplished career in the field of education.

Dr. Johnson got his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh and then returned to San Diego to get a master’s degree in special education and an administrative credential from SDSU. He taught in San Diego for six years and then became a school administrator in New Mexico. While pursuing his doctorate at the University of Texas, he focused his research on schools with high academic results that serve low-income students. He also served as a state department official in both Texas and Ohio and as Director of Student Achievement and School Accountability at the U.S. Department of Education where he was responsible for directing the federal Title I Program.

In 2005, Dr. Johnson returned to SDSU and became a faculty in the Department of Educational Leadership before becoming COE’s dean five years ago.

Asked about his top accomplishments during his distinguished career, Dean Johnson mentioned the following:

  1. In 1989, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Cynthia Uline, also an SDSU College of Education professor, founded the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, which has played a large role in influencing federal legislation supporting the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness.
  2. In 2005, Dr. Johnson was hired by then Dean Skip Meno to come to SDSU to start the National Center for Urban School Transformation.  Over the past 12 years, the Center has identified and studied over 145 urban schools in 26 states where every racial/ethnic/income group outperforms overall state achievement averages. The Center continues to work with schools and school districts to promote educational equity and excellence.
  3. Over the past five years, Dean Johnson helped the College of Education grow and develop. He supported COE faculty who have developed nationally recognized programs. Under his leadership, the College of Education rose to No. 54 in the country and No. 43 among public universities according to U.S. News & World Report.  

“Our programs are attracting more students—about 35 percent more than five years ago—, more diverse students and more talented students than ever before,” Johnson said.

Including faculty who will start in August 2018, the COE will have added 30 new tenure/tenure-track professors over the past five years.

“We have an amazing team of faculty, staff, and students!” said Johnson who will return to campus as a part-time employee of the SDSU Research Foundation to focus on his work with the National Center for Urban School Transformation.

“I will return as a part-time employee of the SDSU Research Foundation and focus on strengthening the National Center for Urban School Transformation. There is so much work to learn from outstanding schools and districts that achieve great results for diverse populations of students,” Dean Johnson concluded.

Informed and Inspired reached out to COE and SDSU faculty and staff to share their opinions about Dean Johnson’s accomplishments, what they’ll miss most about him, and some personal anecdotes. Below is what they had to say:

Chukuka S. Enwemeka, Provost and Senior Vice President of SDSU

Dr. Joe Johnson, Jr. has been an outstanding leader and will be greatly missed. Due to his leadership in galvanizing the efforts of faculty and staff, our College of Education has become a national powerhouse, ranking 7th in California and 43rd nationally among public universities. In addition, Joe has overseen the operations of the College of Extended Studies (CES) as interim dean. His remarkable leadership has repositioned CES and is now poised to move to the next level. It is consoling to know that Joe is not leaving SDSU entirely, and that he will continue with his passion to transform urban education through his leadership. He plans to remain at SDSU, through his work as executive director of the National Center for Urban School Transformation where he will continue to influence changes in teaching and school leadership across the nation. On behalf of the entire faculty, staff, students, and over 300,000 alumni of SDSU, I thank Dr. Johnson Jr. for his dedication and outstanding service to SDSU over the years.

Nadine Bezuk, Associate Dean 

Dean Johnson has had an amazing effect on our College. His insightful, caring leadership has helped our College grow and get better. Our programs are stronger because of his guidance.  It’s been an honor to work with Joe.  I hope he enjoys his well-deserved time off during his retirement!

Marilyn Bredvold, Assistant to the Dean 

Dean Johnson, in word and deed, modeled what the College of Education needs: openness, warmth, and respect for students, faculty and staff, and community partners. We should all be as present and kind as Joe is on his worst day!
Dean Johnson grew up in San Diego, so sometimes people from his past connect with him here at SDSU. For instance, I recently received a call from the wife of Joe’s Scoutmaster, and teacher from 6th grade, inviting Joe to a surprise birthday party for this gentleman. Joe attended!

Tanis Starck, Assistant Dean for Special Projects

What I will miss the most about Dean Johnson will be his vision, his guidance and his commitment to equity and social justice.
Best Wishes in Your Retirement!

Virginia Loh-Hagan, Director, Liberal Studies

I have a bit of a professional crush on Dean Johnson. Joe is just the best guy ever. He is kind, smart, and happy. He's always ready with a smile and a warm invitation. He has helped support and nurture many initiatives (big and small). As the founder and faculty advisor of Aztecs for Education, he has supported all of our community outreach projects. He has this way of making you feel like you just came up with the best idea ever and he tries to find ways to make things work. He is an advocate for the College of Education and his presence will be missed.
I will miss his smile and laugh. He always seems to be laughing - Or maybe, he's just laughing at me. Regardless, Joe has a bright energy. He is a pleasant person to be around. He also has a great sense of humor which makes him very approachable (because some deans can be very scary - but not Joe, he is awesome!!)
I hosted a retirement party for Rafaela Santa Cruz and Joe came. He wasn't dressed in his usual fancy suit and tie and it blew my mind. But, please note - his idea of casual is still pretty dressed up. I love Joe. Big fan of the JJ.
I'm just thrilled that I got an opportunity to work with Joe and I'm so sad that he's leaving. He has definitely made me feel supported and appreciated.

Lisa McCully, Director, Office of Student Services 

The relationships that he has fostered with school district administrators across the county will have a lasting impact on the work that we do going forward. I have lost count of the number of times I have been at recruiting events, site visits or meetings where I've overheard the comment ‘You get to work with Dean Johnson? You are so lucky. He's the best.’ He is well respected throughout our profession and it has been a pleasure to work for him here in the COE.
(I will miss) his big picture thinking and excellent leadership....and his laugh. It's a great laugh!

Jim Marshall, Director, Ed.D. Program-Pre-K12

Dean Johnson reunited a college that had been torn apart. His leadership brought certainty to a historically uncertain time. We once again had a budget that made sense and were plotting a direction supported by almost all members of the COE and our constituencies. Dean Johnson inherited a challenging culture, climate, and economic situation, and united us in moving forward, to the secure and productive state we find ourselves in today.
(I will miss) his collaborative leadership style and the ability to trust each department and program to rise and do the great work they are capable of doing by stepping back and leading from behind.

Marva Cappello, Professor, School of Teacher Education 

Dean Johnson made a difference. And he encouraged others to make a difference.
I have no doubt that I would not be the academic I am without the Dean's strong abilities to listen, suggest and support. Indeed, Joe put me on track to achieve my professional goals. I hope Dean Johnson will continue to be reflected in my work and, as such, I am able to demonstrate a small part of his legacy.

Caren Sax, Chair, Administration, Rehabilitation and Postsecondary Education Department 

When others asked about Dean Johnson and how he was doing as our dean, I would respond with: he's smart and he cares about people, which is a great combination. When he first assumed the position as interim and then dean, he helped bring much needed healing to the College. His leadership has resulted in the creation of a positive and supportive environment for all of us - faculty, staff and students. He listens to people and is thoughtful about how he responds.  He decentralized decision-making and values contributions made by everyone in the COE.
I will miss his great insight into human behavior and organizational change. He understands how to make things work and how to get the buy-in from others to where everyone feels a benefit.
Dean Johnson is known by many for speaking slowly - I think many of us didn't always appreciate it, as we're all moving about 150 miles/hour at all times!  The more I worked with him, the more I came to appreciate his style, as it seemed to force people to slow down, get in the moment and focus on how we could come to solutions.

Cristina Alfaro, Chair, Dual Language and English Learner Education Department 

Dean Johnson has greatly impacted the community of bilingual teacher education and professional development. He has been a solid and continuous support to the advancement of work and research related to the exponential growth of Dual Language programs locally and nationally.
His knowledge and experience in culturally and linguistically diverse student populations is commendable and has assisted many schools committed to equity in education to accomplish their goals.
I will miss his authentic leadership style and his gentle listening ear. Most of all, I will miss his wisdom and advice when faced with difficult situations. Dean Johnson is one of the most honest and transparent educators I have ever worked with and I will miss him tremendously.

Luke Wood, Director, Ed.D. & Claremont Graduate University Joint Ph.D. Programs

Joe is the greatest Dean that I have ever had the pleasure in working for. He brought the college from the brink of destruction to an unparalleled level of success during his tenure as dean. SDSU’s COE is now among the top colleges of education in the nation, not just for publications, grants and teaching excellence but for collegiality, inclusivity and dignity. This is what Joe has brought to our college.
(I will miss) his kind-hearted way of allowing others to come to an understanding of why their idea may or may not work.

Laura Hall, Chair, Department of Special Education

Having Dean Johnson as our college leader has meant that we in the Department of Special Education felt seen, understood and thoroughly supported. As chair, there is no substitute for feeling that my voice would be heard, my decisions understood and knowing his support was always there to turn to if needed. He will be sincerely missed.

Brent Taylor, Chair, Department of Counseling and School Psychology

He has been a voice of reason and provided a calming presence to the entire college. He has transformed the college into a thriving environment where scholarship and practice have advanced greatly with his leadership and guidance.
(I will miss) his kind demeanor and constant support. He always looked for ways to be the most equitable in all situations and cared deeply about each person in the college, whether they were a student, staff or faculty.

Continue to support the initiative Joe started: the Improving Futures Fund (IFF) 

Give to the Improving Futures Funds (IFF)



“This award is just what the Literacy Center needs to begin expanding our current offerings to include enrichment programs for children in the City Heights community.”

Dr. Katie Sciurba, SDSU Literacy Center Director and IFF Recipient