Presbyterian College introduced Dr. Joleesa Johnson as its new program director for first-generation college students.
Johnson is the former assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga. She will take over Presby First+, a comprehensive program that supports students who are the first in their family to go to college.
“I am deeply humbled and honored for the opportunity to join the PC family,” Johnson said. “When searching for my next opportunity to give back, I wanted it to be at an institution that cares deeply about their students and where everyone enjoys attending and working. I also wanted to be at a place where I can live out my life’s motto even more – ‘if I can help at least one person along my journey, then my living shall not be in vain.'”
Johnson said working with first-generation students and other historically marginalized groups is her passion, and PC is the best fit for her talents, expertise, and experience.
Johnson earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from Winthrop University in Rock Hill and a Master of Education in higher education administration from Columbia College in Columbia. Last year, she earned her Doctor of Philosophy in educational leadership from Mercer University in Atlanta, Ga., where her dissertation examined first-generation college graduates.
As a former TRIO Upward Bound program coordinator at Midlands Technical College, Johnson brought high school students to tour college campuses, including PC. What she found there was an inspiration.
We brought our students to tour PC, and I got this feeling of warmth, compassion, and family, and when I stepped foot on PC’s campus for my interview, the same feeling returned,” she said. “PC is an institution that is growing and open to the change that new generations of students force upon higher education institutions. It excites and energizes me to know that PC is a place where change is not feared, where change agents come to campus ready to tackle the day, and where students feel at home. I am overjoyed and ready to do my part in seeing that PC remains a part of our students’ lives forever.”
Johnson also served at the University of South Carolina Beaufort in Bluffton as housing operations and summer conferences and Sand Sharks Scholars coordinator.
She’s also been a leader on campus – as the chair of Georgia Southern’s Black Student Progression and Achievement Committee and USC Beaufort’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
Johnson is a frequent instructor and speaker and has volunteered with the Coastal Community Foundation in Charleston.
Dr. Selena Blair, the Rogers-Ingram Vice President for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, said Johnson is well-prepared to lead PC’s initiatives on behalf of first-generation students.
“We are excited to welcome Dr. Johnson to the PC Family,” Blair said. “Her professional and lived experiences as a first-generation college graduate will be an asset to our commitment as a First-Gen Forward institution in leveling the playing field via robust programming and support for first-generation college students enrolled in both our undergraduate and graduate programs.”