Dr. Blake Johnson Named Assistant Provost for Student Success
Dr. Blake Johnson has been named Assistant Provost for Student Success and Retention at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith following a national search. He will begin his role Oct. 18. The position was created after a year-long institutional reorganization process, aiming to unify the institution’s student success centers into one cohesive unit - the Office of Student Success and Retention.
Dr. Johnson has worked in higher education since 2002, and he will join UAFS from the University of Wyoming where he currently serves as a Faculty Fellow with the Ellbogen Center for Teaching & Learning; a Senior Lecturer with LeaRN; and Manager of Transfer Relations & Student Success in a statewide transfer success initiative. Across these roles, he has worked as an administrator in a coordinated effort to improve onboarding, retention, and student success for transfer and nontraditional students. Additionally, he chairs the university’s Transfer Success Group, is a member of the Faculty Learning Community for First-Generation Initiatives and has launched numerous programs and partnerships to improve student outcomes.
“My mission in higher education is to facilitate sustainable, transformative student outcomes and pathways to mobility through collaborative and strategic institutional practices,” he said. “I am excited to have the opportunity to extend this mission at UAFS. I am a very holistic and systems-oriented person, and I see great opportunities within UAFS to combine a number of new and existing emphases into an institution-wide program for student success.”
Johnson noted that throughout his interviews with UAFS faculty and staff, a true commitment to student success was clear, “There was an enthusiasm regarding student experiences that was evident from my first interaction, and I felt very much at home in the environment. … UAFS has the capacity to be such a responsive and transformative engine of change within this region, and I think there is a clear recognition that to be responsive, institutions nationally must be ready to perpetually change and match their offerings with real-world needs. UAFS gets that, and I believe they are headed for a bright future.”
In the Assistant Provost role, Dr. Johnson will provide leadership and oversight in the development, coordination, and monitoring of retention and student success initiatives. In collaboration with deans, academic departments, campus administrators, faculty, and staff, he will be charged with setting a strategic direction for student success initiatives aimed at increasing year-to-year retention and graduation rates.
“The national landscape for retention initiatives has grown significantly in recent years, as it should, but many well-intended, front-facing initiatives fall short,” Dr. Johnson explained. “To genuinely be equity-minded, we have to approach retention with an outcomes first perspective and assess our effectiveness in light of specific barriers our students experience. When I am speaking or writing, the most common barriers I address are cost, academic preparedness, sense of belonging, and career applicability. I believe all of these have direct relevance for the future of student success at UAFS.”
Dr. Johnson will also lead the operations of academic advising, TRIO programs, Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations, the Academic Success Center, and UAFS Career Services, and will report to Dr. Georgia Hale, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
“I am pleased to have Dr. Blake Johnson join our academic affairs leadership team as the Assistant Provost for Student Success and Retention to lead this new office,” Dr. Hale said. “Dr. Johnson’s experience in higher education spans from large research institutions to small community colleges, representing an impressive array of experience, and his work with students with diverse backgrounds will be incredibly valuable to UAFS as we strive to increase our retention, persistence, and graduate rates.”
Prior to his time at Wyoming, Johnson served as a retention administrator with the Pathway to the Baccalaureate Program, a nationally-recognized initiative to support access and completion for historically underrepresented students, leading a centralized retention office and served on a committee overseeing career services for 77,000 students. He also directed more than $1.5 million in grant funding and led service components involving admissions, academic success, financial aid, parent/family initiatives, and student wellness. Earlier in his career, he held positions focused on student engagement, technology utilization, and assessment at George Mason University, OnCourse Learning, and the University of Maryland.
Dr. Johnson has two graduate degrees from George Mason University, a Masters of Science in Educational Psychology, with a concentration in student learning & motivation, and a Ph.D. in Education and Human Development with a specialization in counseling.
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