North Carolina Campus Compact honors Tamara Johnson as ‘emerging leader’

Tamara Johnson
Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tamara Johnson is the 2018 Civic Engagement Professional of the Year – Emerging Leader Award recipient, as presented by North Carolina Campus Compact.

This award recognizes a higher education administrator in the state who works to realize a campus-wide vision of service, supports the engagement of faculty and students and forms innovative campus-community partnerships. The “emerging leader” distinction is for an honoree who has been at the campus for five years or less.

Johnson, research associate for academic planning and analysis in the Provost’s Office, has shaped the University’s civic engagement landscape and mapped new pathways that connect students and community.

She is the coordinator of the University’s Campus Compact working group, which seeks to expand community-based learning. In 2015, she helped established UNC Charlotte’s biennial Engaged Scholarship and Community Partnership Symposium, an occasion for cross-disciplinary collaboration and sharing best practices. She led committees that organized campus-community gatherings around key local issues: Hunger in Charlotte in 2016 and Housing Affordability in 2017. Last fall, she supported a student-led project to bring Charlotte-Mecklenburg police to campus for a conversation with students about police-involved shootings.

Currently, Johnson leads UNC Charlotte’s Civic Action Plan Committee. The group aims to create a set of strategic initiatives that align teaching, research and service around an urgent community need: economic mobility. 

“Tamara acts in ways that catalyze change by serving as the momentum and connection in a system that is decentralized and prone to silos,” said UNC Charlotte Provost Joan Lorden.

Johnson, who is committed to student engagement, has chaired the 49er Democracy Experience, a group of students who engage their peers in elections. While students carry out voter engagement activities, Johnson amplifies their work by brokering partnerships with Residence Life, Athletics and other campus departments. Their collective efforts engaged hundreds of student voters and helped UNC Charlotte be recognized as a “Voter Friendly Campus” in 2016.

Working with colleagues in the Dean of Students Office, Johnson co-founded and co-leads UNC Charlotte’s Bonner Leaders program, which welcomed its first cohort in fall 2016. A four-year campus-community collaboration that uses federal work-study funds to subsidize public service, the program places students at local nonprofit partners.

One Bonner Leader, whom Johnson invited to serve on the Civic Action Plan Committee, said Johnson is “willing to lift others up and guide them toward a path of success.

“By literally offering me a seat at the table, Dr. Johnson helped grow my understanding of how change is made and what needs to be changed in our community.”

Johnson also teaches as an adjunct faculty member in the Global Studies Department. In 2015 and 2016, she led summer study abroad trips to Cape Town, South Africa, where she once served as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in geography and international studies from UNC Chapel Hill, where she later completed a doctorate in geography.

North Carolina Campus Compact will recognize Johnson at its annual Presidents Forum, hosted by Meredith College in Raleigh. More than 30 presidents and chancellors will attend the one-day event, along with other college and university administrators.

The forum will include keynote remarks by Lynn Pasquerella, president of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, and Matthew Hartley, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania. Attendees will participate in a facilitated discussion that examines the role of campuses in fostering free speech and civility.