Johnson to Direct Multicultural Student Affairs By Ken Keatley Ralph Johnson does not use the term extracurricular to describe the organized activities of university students. "That to me says the activity is an appendage," said Dr. Johnson, the new director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and assistant to the dean of Homewood student services. "I use the term co-curricular, because what these students learn outside the classroom in many instances parallels what they're learning in the classroom." Whether it's writing for a student newspaper, participating in an environmental club or singing in a madrigal group, co-curricular activities are integral in helping students grow and develop, Dr. Johnson believes. Activities are particularly important for minority students, who may initially feel isolated within an unfamiliar culture, he added. "Programs like Multicultural Student Affairs are important, so that we give minority students a sense of belonging and confidence," Dr. Johnson explained. "The hope is that they will go on to participate, make their voices heard and make a difference in the campus community." Prior to arriving at Hopkins last month, Dr. Johnson was assistant director of student life and director of minority student affairs at the University of South Carolina. He has spent his 12-year career working in student affairs and is highly regarded within the field, according to Larry Benedict, dean of Homewood student services. "I'm delighted that we've been able to attract someone with the credentials of Dr. Johnson," Dr. Benedict said. "An experienced professional in his field and nationally known in the student affairs profession, he is going to be a wonderful addition to our staff and to the Hopkins community." At South Carolina, Dr. Johnson developed and implemented a number of programs and services for the minority student population. He is especially proud of the Minority Assistance Peer Program, which paired incoming minority freshmen with mentoring upperclassmen. "The program was very successful," Dr. Johnson said. "The retention rate of minority students was enhanced, but more importantly, the quality of life of these students increased tremendously." He also developed a Minority Student Graduate School Fair, which included workshops that provided information on the graduate school experience, and Students Educating and Empowering for Diversity, a series of student-run seminars dealing with various aspects of diversity. Dr. Johnson said he is impressed with the variety of programs already in place at Hopkins, including special events that promote diversity and enhance the educational experience for minorities. The recent Culture Fest is a good example, he said. "I look forward to evaluating the programs at Hopkins--and adding new programs where appropriate--so that we can continue to better serve multicultural students here," he said. Dr. Johnson is president-elect of the Southern Association for College Student Affairs, and a member of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. His doctoral dissertation, "Factors in the Academic Success of African-American College Males," garnered him the 1993 Dissertation of the Year Award from SACSA.
Go to Gazette Homepage