TIFTON—Dr. Marcus Johnson has made quite an impact on Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College since he became a faculty member in 2015. He now serves as the Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs: Teaching, Learning, and Student Engagement. He is also the Director of Faculty Development and heads up the ABAC Center for Teaching and Learning. He also taught two classes during the spring term.
A 1991 Tift County High School graduate, Johnson received his Associate of Science degree from Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, graduated with two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Georgia (UGA) in psychology and philosophy, earned his master’s degree from Georgia State University in philosophy, and received his doctorate from UGA in Educational Theory and Practice.
“I love ABAC,” Johnson said. “I was happy to see the position posted eight years ago, after completing my PhD. It gave me the opportunity to come back home to my family, which has deep roots in this area.
“I have really enjoyed teaching, especially the educational psychology course. The science of how humans perceive, store, and recall information is fascinating. Plus, the students understand that the information in this course is immediately relevant for them. That makes teaching fun.”
Prior to joining the ABAC faculty, Johnson had 10 years of experience teaching high school and a few more years’ teaching experience as a graduate assistant at UGA and briefly as an adjunct faculty member at at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.
Johnson’s duties have often shifted to accommodate the needs of ABAC, from teaching in the education program, to leading efforts creating a teacher-certifying Agricultural Education program, to now helping to coordinate all aspects of teaching, learning, and student engagement.
Regarding faculty development and direction, Johnson publishes a monthly internal faculty development newsletter, organizes the fall faculty development conference, leads some and helps to organize other faculty learning communities, observes faculty teaching and provides mentoring, and hosts about 40 faculty development sessions each year through the ABAC Center for Teaching and Learning.
“I would like to note that almost none of this I have done on my own,” Johnson said. “Most of what I accomplish in this role occurs by bringing people together who know more than I do and who want to help ABAC provide an excellent experience for students. This approach can work because we have fabulous faculty here at ABAC who possess a wealth of knowledge to share.”
Since Johnson was named the Assistant Vice President for Teaching, Learning, and Student Engagement on Oct. 1, 2021, there have been challenges to overcome.
In this role, Johnson has worked diligently to get ABAC back to an improved normal, following the obstructions caused by Covid restrictions. Examples of such progress include returning to a face-to-face undergraduate research symposium this year and reopening the study abroad trips ABAC offers.
“We are currently receiving applications for ABAC-led trips next year,” Johnson said.
ABAC offers study abroad programs to allow students the opportunity to grow academically, socially, and culturally. The college has sent students to countries such as Argentina, Belize, France, England, Ireland, Italy, and Norway.
“We are always looking to do things better,” Johnson said. “I have been seeking to improve lateral communication by bringing together faculty, staff, and administration who are involved with student learning. The dialogue afforded by these interactions allows us to see problems and potential solutions from a variety of perspectives.”
One example of this is the creation of a working group of faculty from different programs who are knowledgeable and passionate about the role of educational technology in improving teaching and learning. This group gathers information and shares it with Johnson and Chris Daniels, the head of education technology, to best discern faculty and student technology needs. Similar groups related to teaching, advising, scholarship, and engagement are planned to be established in coming semesters.
“Through this program, knowledge and ideas are shared, and communication flows in several directions, both vertically and horizontally, to better inform the institution,” Johnson noted.
When asked about his immediate goals for the coming semester, Johnson said, “I look forward to continuing to improve communication and transparency within the institution, to understanding the new President’s vision, and to helping us realize that vision within the context of the well-established strengths and mission of ABAC.
“The most fulfilling thing about ABAC is that it has allowed me to take initiative and do interesting things. I have been fortunate to work under supervisors who, rather than micromanage, have allowed me to be creative, try new things, and start innovative programs. I am well aware of how fortunate I am to have a job that I find intellectually stimulating.”
The fall semester begins at ABAC on Aug. 15.