Suzanne Johnson named next Green River president

The Green River Board of Trustees selected Suzanne Johnson as the college’s next president during a special board meeting on Tuesday.

Johnson, vice president of academic affairs at Suffolk County Community College in Long Island, N.Y., starts July 1, and will be paid $240,000 a year. She will succeed Interim President Scott Morgan, whom the Board of Trustees appointed on July 28, 2016.

The college began the search for its next leader after Eileen Ely resigned last June following months of unrest on campus.

Johnson began her career in higher education in 1988 as a psychology instructor at Dowling College in Oakdale, N.Y., and moved through the ranks to become the college dean in 2012. Johnson also served as the interim campus president of the Sylvania Campus of Portland Community College in Portland, Ore. She has been instrumental in accreditation reviews, providing leadership over instruction and student affairs, and has a deep commitment to the community college mission, according to a media release from Green River.

She has a doctorate in developmental psychology and a master’s degree in psychology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y.

Johnson, who was born in the St. Louis, Mo., area, and moved with her family to New York while she was in middle school, said she was impressed by the community college systems in Washington and Oregon, which she saw while working in Portland. When she learned of the job opening at Green River in January, she applied.

“I felt my background and experience might be a good fit for the institution,” Johnson said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “No matter what challenges the college might be facing, having a team of people who are dedicated to students and their success, that is where I wanted to go.

“I am looking forward to being in the Pacific Northwest, I hope, for a long, long time. I would love to be able to settle in that area and make Green River a place I can dedicate my career.”

Johnson was one of four finalists interviewed by the Board of Trustees. A 12-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee – made up of faculty, staff, students and community members – screened 36 applications and selected eight semifinalists to interview before making a recommendation to the Board of Trustees.

“All of the finalists had one ingredient in common, which is why they got as far as they did,” said Tim Clark, vice-chair of Green River’s Board of Trustees. “They identified with core values of diversity and completion as a goal. All had done something in that particular arena.”

Johnson’s experience implementing new initiatives and working with people made her the right person for the job, Clark said

“I think she has the right style of leadership for our campus and the challenges we face in the immediate future,” he said. “We have to deal with closing the competition gap. We have to deal with wideness of diversity in the community we serve.”

Each of the finalists spent a day at Green River’s campus in Auburn, and Clark and board Chair Claudia Kauffman visited the home institutions of each finalist.

“We wanted a better overall picture of the people they have been working with,” Clark said.

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