Posted on October 13, 2009 by Tia Lalani

Ric Johnson new Vice Dean for Augustana Campus

By Lech Linkiel

Dr. Ric Johnson, the newly appointed vice-dean at the U of A’s Augustana campus, is happy to return to a rural, undergraduate, and liberal arts and sciences campus after 23 years at the University of Alberta’s School of Business.

“My undergraduate experience was at a school very much this size and in a town very much this size, and I loved it,” he says. “I grew up in a farm town near a city the size of Camrose, and I have those kinds of values. I really like that it’s focused on undergraduate education. It’s one thing we do extremely well.”

Dr. Johnson earned his first degree in Psychology and Philosophy at Northwest Nazarene College in 1977. After completing his PhD, his career path took a distinctly research-oriented and urban turn when he accepted a job at the U of A’s business school. “I chose to stay at the big university for the resources, and I still like doing research. But here at Augustana there’s not that compromise. I still have the resources and I can concentrate on undergraduate education.”

Augustana, Johnson argues, holds a unique place at the University of Alberta and among North American universities in general. “As far as I know, it’s very unusual for the small liberal arts college to be so valued within the system as Augustana is,” says Dr. Johnson. “We get to be a special unit within a bigger community, that also does those other things, and they’ll support what we do here. … The big universities have resources and they’ve got access to resources. They can lobby on our behalf and help us get these big projects we need,” Dr Johnson says, pointing to the new Augustana Library as an example of a multimillion dollar project the collage couldn’t afford to construct on its own.

“Sitting on several committees, I’ve been impressed with how much the university values Augustana, how glad they are to have this jewel. They undertook to merge with Augustana because they understand how special this place is. So they don’t want to turn us into something that we’re not,” Johnson says. “People are here in Camrose because they chose to be, and people in Edmonton know what we’re about. They appreciate our particular goals, and they’re not … looking down their noses at us because we’re different. They recognise that we’re doing something that they want, and they can’t do themselves.”

Which, according to Dr Johnson, also means that Augustana’s spiritual heritage is well understood. “My own belief is that human beings are physical, mental, and spiritual, and I think that it’s valuable to keep all three growing. I was very much pleased that the Chaplaincy was protected and that there’s a commitment it will be kept – not just here, but thriving.”

“If it ever came to the point that they try to turn us into a secular university, I would argue strongly for keeping what we have and adding on, so that we can meet the spiritual needs of people from other faiths.”

Having spent over two decades in the Department of Marketing and Economic Analysis at the U of A’s School of Business, Dr Johnson brings to his new position at Augustana considerable experience in university administration and governance. Since 1998 he has been Chair of the Department of Marketing, Business Economics and Law.

The combination of his big campus experience and his small campus roots gives Dr. Johnson a unique perspective and ability to understand and be an advocate for Augustana within the U of A system. As he says, “I’ve been on the big campus for 23 years, it’s long enough to learn the language.” While committed to Augustana’s success, Johnson admits that he is also “committed to the big university system, and I want to help Augustana understand how good it is that they’re with us.”

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