Staff Spotlight: William Johnson Jr.

by Jamie Gonzales  |   

Staff Spotlight: William Johnson Jr. Administrative Assistant, Military Programs, NCBI Trainer Hometown: Petersburg, VA and Anchorage, AK Fun Fact: When stationed in London as a young man in the Air Force, he found himself swept up in the chaos of Trafalgar Square on New Year's Eve one year. Quite the experience for this self-described "country boy."

I AM UAA: William Johnson Philip Hall / University of Alaska Anchorage

I AM UAA: William Johnson
Philip Hall / University of Alaska Anchorage

William Johnson is often the first point of contact at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER) for active duty military students and their dependents trying to navigate their way through college. More than 1,000 students filter through the Community and Technical College's extension centers at Elmendorf and Fort Richardson each year looking to make their start as a new college student or continue an interrupted education.

Savvy folks know that a good administrative assistant-people like 12-year veteran UAA employee William-can help untangle your trickiest hang-ups.

"I call us first responders. When they come into the office, we're the first UAA experience they have," he says. "What they feel when they leave, it sticks with them. It's important."

The family that studies together...

The students William helps can rest assured that he knows a little something about making it as a student at UAA.

On the home stretch toward his own bachelor's degree in sociology, he has also encouraged his wife and oldest son when they attended UAA and is cheering his second son, Brannon, through, too. (We profiled William's oldest son, Bryce, last week.) A true Green and Gold family, the Johnsons might be headed for a record if their youngest, Bradley, a 6'5" ball-playing senior at Bartlett, decides to stick with family tradition and become a Seawolf.

Like many Alaska families, it was the military that brought the Johnsons to Anchorage. The extended community beyond base helped them decide to stay after transitioning from an active duty to civilian lifestyle.

Forging ties with NCBI

"I have an affinity for communities," says Williams. "While I'm no longer part of the active military community, I am part of the Anchorage community, so I try to find something I can support or grab ahold of, be a member of."

A few years ago, he learned about the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) presence on campus through a "Welcoming Diversity, Prejudice Reduction" workshop.

He saw the NCBI trainers were motivated to help foster an inclusive and welcoming spirit at UAA. William got on board with their train the trainer sessions and now volunteers as part of the team, leading workshops.

"I bring my own history to the work and to the university setting. Coming from different cities, I understand how different things can be when you have a diverse workforce and a diverse community," he says. "There may not be opportunities for everybody. You see that."

The solution? Chip away at the barriers.

"Reading the feedback after a workshop is inspirational," he says. "If you can affect a couple folks, that's meaningful. It's good work."

His vision is a community where we don't blink at the gender or ethnicity of people who come into key positions.

"When we don't think about the difference, we only see the person, when it's not a headline that they're the first this or the first that, when it starts to be normal," he says, that's when he can relax and know that his kids and grandkids are inheriting a better world.

And he does have one grandson to consider now. At 16 months old, Brysen is starting to put some sentences together, so he's definitely ready to sit down and talk future plans with his grandpa.

On the agenda, we just hope he's included some thoughts on continuing the Green and Gold family legacy. Hello, Class of 2035?

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