Faculty Spotlight- Ron Johnson

Five Questions with a Faculty Member...

Ron Johnson, Associate Teaching Professor, Management and Organization


1. Tell us about the classes you teach.
My role in the Smeal College of Business Management & Organization Department is to work with students who are entering Smeal, as well as those who are graduating from Smeal. I developed and teach our MGMT 301 course – one of the early courses every first- or second-year student takes if they are pursuing a business major. It is a core entrance-to-major course. I also developed and teach our BA 342 class on the leadership competencies of ethics, sustainability, and diversity. This is a course every Smeal student needs, regardless of their major, to graduate. So, you could say I stand at the entrance and the exit for Smeal.


2. What do you enjoy most about the work that you do?
The best thing about what I do is connecting with students. I typically see 3,000 students per academic year in my classes from about 50 countries, leading to many interactions with students and student groups. On any given day, I might coach an individual on course content and how to do well on exams. Or, I may coach them on their career choice or on how to interact with recruiters. And, I may also work with them on company projects such as a new partnership project with PepsiCo on the responsible use of resources. I interact with my students on just about anything you can think of.


3. Considering the courses that you teach, how can students start putting what they are learning into practice?
When I talk about leadership competencies in my courses, I am clear that these are also applied career skills. We talk about how to apply them in projects and in their discussions with recruiters. I receive hundreds of comments from students on how they have used what we directly did in class with recruiters in interviews, on their internships, and their full-time careers after graduation. Each class project that students complete is designed to give them a direct application of what they are learning that they can share with others. For example, when I cover sustainability, I assign each student a Fortune 500 company and ask them to analyze the company’s sustainability report. Having this background knowledge and experience directly benefits all students, regardless of their major.


4. What advice do you have for students, as we near the mid-point in the semester?
It is always interesting getting to half-time of the big game we call a semester. My advice is to finish strong, play better in the second half than you did in the first half. In track, race coaches teach athletes to “run through the tape.” It means always work hard until the final second. That mindset can make all the difference in how you perform. Lastly, I end every week of class with these words, “Be Safe and Responsible.” I want students to have fun and to look out for each other – be safe and responsible.


5. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love hanging out with my wife Cheryl. She is my anchor. We like to see family, travel, and on our farm, we watch the miracle that is planting and growing crops – it never ceases to amaze how well that process works.