Biography

Biography

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Robert E. Johnson, Chancellor, UMass Dartmouth

Dr. Robert E. Johnson is chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a Tier 1 national research university providing a private college educational experience and public university value. Prior to his 2017 appointment, he was president of Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts for seven years, leading the college’s evolution into an adaptive, nimble, and entrepreneurial institution that is a model for colleges and universities across the United States. His unyielding belief in higher education as a public good has led him to dedicate more than a quarter century to ensuring educational opportunity that transforms lives.

A frequent commentator on issues related to the future of work, Dr. Johnson believes higher education must foster in students an "Agile Mind" to the develop divergent thinking skills, social and emotional intelligence, empathy, and entrepreneurial outlook that are the hallmarks of future success. By nurturing the uniquely human capacities that cannot be replicated by technology, this education provides the foundation for graduates to add and create value in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world.

A native of Detroit, Dr. Johnson was inspired to attend Morehouse College by his late uncle Robert E. Johnson Jr., associate publisher and executive editor of JET Magazine and Morehouse classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He encouraged Dr. Johnson’s commitment to service and transforming the next generation of leaders, influencing his fundamental belief that humanity, civil discourse, and civility must be at the core of all we do. As engaged and educated citizens on a planet with more than 7 billion people, we are privileged and thus have a social responsibility not only to leave the world better than we found it but to inspire the next generation of leaders to transform the world.

Dr. Johnson is a member of the Council on Competitiveness and serves on the executive committee of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable. He has also served on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, as vice chair of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, and as chair of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

At every stage of his career, Dr. Johnson has broken barriers. At age 26, he was named executive director of enrollment management at Central State University, one of the youngest professionals in the country to hold that position in a four-year institution. At age 34, he became vice provost at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan—the youngest and highest-ranking African American there. In 2004, he became vice president of enrollment management at the University of Dayton, and the first African American vice president in the university’s 154-year history. As senior vice president at Sinclair College in 2006, he was the highest-ranking African American on the 26,000-student campus. Johnson was the first African American president in Becker College’s 226-year history and is the first to serve as chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Dr. Johnson holds a doctorate in higher education administration from Touro University International, formerly a division of Touro College, New York; a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Cincinnati; and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Morehouse College. He is married to Michelle Jones-Johnson. They have two children, Jasmine and Alex. 

UMass Dartmouth is located on 710 scenic acres on the south coast of Massachusetts. With nearly 9,000 students in undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs, and a 400-member faculty that produces $27 million annually in research activity, UMass Dartmouth is the only Massachusetts research university south of Boston and generates nearly $500 million of regional economic activity. It is home to the Commonwealth’s only public law school and is a national Top 20 university for civic engagement, annually contributing more than 240,000 hours of community service valued at more than $6 million. Of the university’s 50,000 alumni, three quarters live in Massachusetts and half in southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod.

Follow Dr. Johnson on Twitter: @UMassDRJohnson, on Facebook: @umassdchancellor, and via his blog, The Agile Future, https://www.theagilefuture.com/