Growing up in a single-parent home in Louisville, Kentucky, Rana Johnson, vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, said she is the product of her public school education. Johnson said her mother taught her how to read and write at three or four years old, sparking her desire for higher education.
She is a first-generation college student, and after a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Spalding University, she completed a master’s in speech communication from Eastern New Mexico University, Johnson said. Following her first semester of her master’s program, she realized her love for education; she decided to pursue a doctorate because of her passion for being a resource for other students, Johnson said.
“I saw higher education really as a vehicle to transition not just myself, but my family out of the stigma and the poverty, and so it became almost a mission for me as I transitioned from bachelor to masters to Ph.D. to try to help families that were unable to navigate higher education,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the greatest influence in her life was her mother, who passed in 2011. She said her mother was her biggest cheerleader and greatest supporter.
“She really put into play my ability to really embrace and appreciate education at a very early age even though she only finished the tenth grade,” Johnson said. “She knew the importance of education even though she did not transition to a college or university.”
As Johnson transitions to her position as the first vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at K-State, her goal is to prepare students for the transition to the workforce to live and work alongside individuals with different perspectives, upbringings and backgrounds.
One way Johnson said she plans to represent all voices on campus is to rearrange her schedule to meet all students, faculty, staff and administrators.
“Everyone should have a voice because everyone is significant and important,” Johnson said.
Elizabeth Wright, senior in agricultural communications, said the new position is a powerful one.
“I think it is very important for students to have a person advocating for them and pushing them to find their purpose and meaning on campus,” Wright said.
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One of the first activities she plans to implement at K-State will be listening sessions, Johnson said. These sessions are meetings with groups to discuss topics and collect information about individuals’ experiences.
“I’m very excited about my transition there and all of the opportunities that will come my way, and I’m real excited about working with the students, faculty, staff and administrators so that we can advance diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at Kansas State University,” Johnson said.
According to K-State Today, Johnson will be responsible for creating and defining opportunities and practices to promote inclusive excellence across all aspects of university life. She will work closely with other departments on campus to create a welcoming environment for all.
“I am very proud of the great work of our university related to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging,” President Richard Linton said in a K-State Today article. “Kansas State University has come a long way, and with the hiring of Dr. Rana Johnson we have the opportunity to take this effort to the next level. I have full confidence that Dr. Johnson is the right person at the right time for K-State.”
Johnson’s position as vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging will be effective Dec. 1.
“I am so very honored and humbled to have this opportunity, and I don’t take it lightly, and I cannot wait to transition to Manhattan, Kansas, in the next several weeks,” Johnson said.