Dr. Alisa Johnson, an English professor at Meredith, will be taking on a new role as the Assistant Dean of Arts & Humanities (A&H) this fall. The Herald spoke to Dr. Johnson to hear more about her time at Meredith and what she expects to bring to her new role.
Dr. Johnson was born in Danville, Virginia, but grew up in Yanceyville, North Carolina. She said she was a science fiction and comic book nerd in high school and still has a large comic book collection. She also considers herself to be a cat person as the owner of five cats and someone who has lived with cats most of her life. Dr. Johnson shared that she has been a Buddhist and student of Zen for 10 years and was previously a Quaker.
While she was finishing her Ph.D. at UNC-Chapel Hill, a faculty member told her about a job teaching a course in African American Literature at Meredith and suggested she apply. At the time, she had a full-time job at UNC’s Learning Center, but she applied for the job and got it. She says her first class here was wonderful, and she liked Meredith. She too had attended a small college — Guilford College — and felt at home on their campus.
Dr. Johnson said she feels ready for her new role because of her interest in several issues, like affordable housing, community health and neighborhood revitalization, and her involvement in several organizations. She explained that she has had a great deal of practice being present for other people and helping them process their experiences. Dr. Johnson has been a part of contentious and painful discussions on and off campus. She has spent years listening to people express their fears, hopelessness or pain — often around racial or gender issues — and said that learning how to express her own has prepared her for this role as the Assistant Dean of A&H.
When asked what she hopes to contribute to the Meredith community, Dr. Johnson said, “At present, some of our processes involving the handling of student/faculty non-academic complaints are extremely impersonal and somewhat off-putting. I hope to add a human dimension to the process so that it is less impersonal and more accessible. It is important that both students and faculty who find themselves involved in the complaint process know that they are respected and valued, regardless of the outcome of any particular case.” Dr. Johnson added that she is excited to get started and begin working with students on a much closer level.
By Evelyn Summers, Contributing Writer