Becky Johnson: Rebuilding Campus Community

Becky Johnson has been the interim president of Oregon State University since May 1, 2021, and she’s focused on getting the university on a good path in a multitude of ways. 

After previous president F. King Alexander’s resignation, OSU is without a permanent president. And although Johnson says she won’t be a candidate for the seat, she wants to spend her year as interim making the job “so attractive for the next person that we will get an incredible leader to come.” 

Johnson has worked with OSU in various capacities since 1984, and is the first woman in the school’s history to hold the title of president, even temporarily. During her year of presidency, she has big plans for the institution in terms of rebuilding trust in university leadership, advancing antiracism and other diversity initiatives, addressing interpersonal violence in the community, and reopening the physical campus. 

Her strong stance in favor of “inclusive excellence” is refreshing after OSU’s last presidency ended amidst allegations of mishandled Title IX complaints at Alexander’s prior position. “I think there does need to be more trust here at OSU after what we went through last spring,” she said. Johnson plans to build confidence by “listening authentically, and understanding and respecting the diversity of worldviews at our university.” 

The biggest challenge Johnson is facing this year, in her words, is the fall term reentry to the physical campus. “We want people to feel safe,” she said, “and we want them to have the kind of experience they were expecting when they enrolled at Oregon State.” The university plans to adhere to local, state and federal public health guidelines closely as they reopen campus once again. 

For those who aren’t planning to go back to campus, Johnson also noted that “OSU’s high quality response to the pandemic has showcased the university’s ability to serve learners of all ages and walks of life” with the institution’s diverse online eCampus offerings. 

By Ardea C. Eichner