Rana Johnson, Ph.D., who received a master's degree in speech communication and rhetoric from Eastern New Mexico University in 1994, started her role as associate vice president for Inclusive Excellence and Strategic Initiatives at Indiana State University this semester.
"I am responsible for developing a culture of inclusion by providing leadership for campus efforts to enhance the campus community and advance an appreciation for diversity, in all its forms, as a strength," explains Dr. Johnson, who reports to the provost to implement diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives related to the university's strategic plan.
Her favorite part of the job is working with administrators, faculty and staff. "I appreciate collaborating with my colleagues to advance Inclusive Excellence campus wide," she says.
Dr. Johnson's career goal is to reach as many students as possible, including first-generation, low-income, traditional and non-traditional students, and support them in reaching their goals. "It's not where you came from that matters… but where you're going and who you help along the way," she shares.
Her advice to students interested in her career field is to "challenge and stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone. I grew so very much when I moved to Portales, New Mexico, and spent two years there for my master's degree.
"My ENMU experience enables me to analyze information from a micro and macro perspective, challenges me to engage in critical thinking to be a strong, effective and equitable leader and enhance my problem-solving skills to make the best-informed decisions, regardless of the task. I grew and matured as a result of living in Portales."
She chose to attend ENMU because of the individual attention students receive, which she found to be similar to a private institution.
During her time at Eastern, she traveled as a judge for the speech and debate team. She had oversight of the undergraduate speech and debate team when faculty member Dr. Anthony Schroeder was unable to attend. She also worked for the student newspaper, covering sporting events and writing op-eds on various DEI topics.
Dr. Johnson shared that she had the "opportunity to learn from one of Eastern New Mexico University's most visionary educators- Dr. Anthony Schroeder- a great mentor."
The Greyhound Grad pursued a master's degree in communication after developing an interest in the subject during her time as an undergraduate at Spalding University, where she received a bachelor's degree in mass communication. "During the first semester of my master's program at ENMU, I loved the research aspect of the courses that Dr. Schroeder taught - I decided to pursue a doctoral degree during my first semester at ENMU-upon completion of my master's degree."
She completed her Master of Arts in time to accept a teaching assistantship for her doctoral degree at the University of Kentucky. After earning the doctoral degree, she served the citizens of Kentucky for 18 years at the higher education coordinating agency- the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. During her tenure in Kentucky, she helped develop the Statewide Diversity Policy. She served in a variety of roles: associate for Equal Education Opportunities, senior associate for Equal Education Opportunities, chief diversity officer and senior associate for Special Projects and Outreach.
Dr. Johnson moved to Unity, Maine in May 2017, where she served as the inaugural chief diversity and inclusion officer for two years at Unity College. She now lives in Terre Haute, Indiana.
She shared, "My greatest cheerleader and supporter was my mom, Mary Elizabeth Johnson. She passed away in 2011 after being diagnosed with cancer. My greatest memory is watching my very proud mother during the hooding ceremony of my doctoral degree. That moment is etched in my mind, forever."
When asked about her role models, Dr. Johnson credits her mother: "She taught me to read and write at the age of three or four. I also have additional role models and mentors-numerous-I am a compilation of them all!"
The associate vice president has received many awards and recognitions, including the Mentor of the Year Award at the Institute on Teaching and Mentoring, Recognition from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Doctoral Scholars Program- Kentucky Scholars, Pleasure Ridge Park High School Alumni Hall of Fame, Kentucky Colonel- Commonwealth of Kentucky and the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) Accreditation Training Certification.
She volunteers each year at the Compact for Faculty Diversity-Institute on Teaching and Mentoring. "The organization changed my life and enabled me to complete my doctoral degree," she says. "Thank you Dr. Gordon Davies, Dr. Deneese Jones, Dr. Ansley Abraham, Mr. Sherron Jackson and Dr. Bob Belle for assisting with the academic transformation that empowers me to advocate for Inclusive Excellence!"
Dr. Johnson's hobbies include running, cycling and skiing.