SFU appoints Dr. Joy Johnson as incoming president

Johnson has worked as the Vice-President, Research since 2014, previously faculty at UBC

SFU's next president is going to be Dr Joy Johnson

By: Gurpreet Kambo, News Editor

After an extensive search process that spanned 2019, Simon Fraser University announced its new incoming president. Dr. Joy Johnson will be SFU’s new president for a five-year term as of Fall 2020. She will be replacing outgoing president Andrew Petter, who served two consecutive five-year terms at the helm of SFU. 

Since 2014, Johnson has been the university’s Vice-President, Research. 

“I love being part of SFU — so much is possible here as we develop new learning opportunities, enhance student support and services, expand our facilities, strengthen our research infrastructure, and forge new partnerships,” Johnson wrote in a press release about the announcement. “It’s my great privilege to have the opportunity to serve as President and Vice-Chancellor, and I look forward to getting started.”

The Peak had the opportunity to sit down with Johnson, and asked her how she would like to introduce herself to SFU students. 

“I have been at SFU for just over five years, serving as the Vice President of Research and International and I have seen the potential of this amazing university,” she said.

“I think we’re just at such a fortunate place at SFU in terms of the three campuses, exciting things happening like the new Student Union Building opening, new energy systems engineering building out in Surrey, and more potential to come. So that excites me a great deal and that’s partly why I put my name forward [for the presidency] because I do believe there’s so much potential, so much more that we can do.”

Aside from her previous positions at SFU, Johnson has an extensive history in academia. She previously earned a PhD in nursing from the University of Alberta, and served as a professor in the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia. Her research focused on “how environments and social dynamics influence health outcomes and opportunities, particularly among youth,” according to the press release issued by SFU. She also co-authored more than 180 peer-reviewed manuscripts as part of her academic career.

The president of SFU serves as the public face of the university. 

According to Johnson, “You can kind of think of it as the CEO role, and that’s to lead the leadership team,” like the vice-presidents and associate vice-presidents of the universities. 

She adds that the position also includes “creating relationships with other entities, be they industry, community, et cetera.”  

The president is also unique, according to Johnson, as they chair the Senate, the chief academic body of the university, and sit on the Board of Governors, the chief operational body of the university. Part of their role is ensuring that these bodies are coordinated and “strategically aligned.”

However, Johnson emphasizes that, despite the president’s role being complex and multifaceted,  she considers students to be her top priority as president. 

“I do want students to know that students come first. They’re at the heart of the university and it’s really important to me that the learning environment be front and center, for the president, to be thinking about the ways in which we provide an excellent education for students and provide them the support that they need.”