- Nina Johnson
Program / Year
Doctor of Education in Leadership ’19
What led you to enroll at Lewis & Clark's Graduate School of Education and Counseling?
It has been my dream to one day get my doctorate.
Who or what inspired you to pursue your chosen field of study?
I struggled in school growing up, and barely made it through with a diploma. Not many of my teachers looked forward to seeing me. My vice principal, Mr. Peterson, was the one person in school who seemed happy to see me, no matter what I had done to end up in his office. I hope I can be that one person who is always happy to see kids in school, even when they struggle.
What does social justice mean to you?
Social justice to me is a form of hope for a future where opportunity is no longer dependent on the home you grew up in or the color of your skin. Social justice is a faith in humanity, that when we work from a place of love and respect for each other and our differences, we can change our world together.
How do you hope to apply your social justice education in your chosen career?
As an education leader I hope to empower the voices and stories of those who have been silenced. I will always reflect on my own actions, and invite dialogue and critical feedback from the people I serve.
Where have you been working/interning as a student, and what does that work entail?
I am currently a principal for a virtual charter school. Our school specializes in second chances for students needing an alternative approach to learning. So much about learning online is unknown, and needs to be discovered as virtual learning becomes part of our culture.
What is the most fun part of your program?
Hands down, the people. The members of my cohort, instructors and researchers have really stretched my thinking and helped me to grow exponentially as a leader.
What is the hardest part of your program?
Time. It’s hard to juggle a full time career, six kids, and thesis.
How would you describe your graduate school experience in one sentence?
Hope is my legacy and worth the struggle.
Who has been your most influential professor, and why?
Mollie and Sue, the co-directors, have both pushed my thinking in different ways. Sue holds you accountable to do your best work, and Mollie’s enthusiasm and passion for social justice is infectious. I could not imagine the program without either of them!
What is a unique perspective you bring to your cohort?
It’s rare to be an educator who hated school. I like to think I came back for kids like me. I question everything. Relentlessly.
What career will you be pursuing after graduation? Did you intend for this to be your career path when you enrolled?
I did not think I would get to be a principal so soon. I guess I would like to see where my skills and knowledge would do the most good.
Describe an "ah-ha" or "right-turn" moment you have experienced here - a time when your perspective, opinion, outlook, or goals changed suddenly due to a specific experience.
Reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire, rocked my world. It became the foundation for all of my research and will forever change the way I look at the world.
What do you think of Portland?
The northwest is breathtaking. Portland is a quirky town, and the culture is so different from California, but I think I’m here to stay.
Anything else you would like to add about your family, background, plans, etc.?
My faith and my wonderful family have been so supportive. I could not have done it without them.