In honor of Women's History Month, the College of Education and Human Development is highlighting some of its spectacular female educators and staff. Jennifer Johnson, assistant professor of Policy, Organizational and Leadership Studies, gave insight on her work, background and what inspires her.
Before Johnson was an active scholar in the fields of college access and student retention she was a middle school teacher in Philadelphia's Public Schools, focusing on science and mathematics. Working as a 7th-grade teacher, Johnson discovered she was also passionate about raising awareness of educational opportunities beyond K-12.
"I recognized that the tracking systems in place shape opportunities for these students beginning in middle school, and without timely interventions to support academic readiness and expose students to career opportunities that require higher education, students may not be able to actualize their full potential," said Johnson.
This was the catalyst for Johnson's shift toward college access work. She spent several years working as a counselor and advisor for college access and success programs to continue helping students. Then she was able to start researching areas that included pre-college access programs, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and high-achieving students of color.
Most of Johnson's research and work centers around students of color, especially Black students. Johnson believes that equity in education can only be established by acknowledging that our system of education is structurally unequal. Many factors like who you are and where you are born determine your outcomes in education.
"I would advise Black students to continue to use their voice to share their lived experiences in educational spaces - what works and what we need to do better. This is how we advocate for equity in education," Johnson stated.
In 2014, Johnson launched a large-scale qualitative research project focusing on the college choice motivations, collegiate experiences, and outcomes of HBCU alumni. With her work at Temple University, she continues to teach and help students navigate college access.
She teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses on access and equity in higher education and higher education policy. Johnson also works with the Temple Education Scholars Program. Temple Education Scholars is a dual enrollment program for 12th-grade high school students in the city of Philadelphia.
"I am able to work with the team to create our program activities to best meet the needs of students in this unique dual enrollment program," Johnson said.
Working in the College of Education and Human Development, Johnson says she is inspired by the students she gets to work with every week.
"I know that the work that I do is intended to center their lived experiences and form recommendations for best practices to facilitate college access and success," she stated.
Johnson is also inspired by the many professional women who mentored her formally and informally. These women educators supported her thirst for knowledge and encouraged her to question the things around her.
Johnson's advice for female future educators and future educators, in general, is that they should really lean into their authentic selves.
"We are so often told 'who to be' and 'how to be' in society. We have to figure out who we really are, and use that authentic self to influence the work that we do in education," she said.
Visit Dr. Jennifer Johnson's faculty profile to learn more about her work and the courses she teaches in the College of Education and Human Development.