Dr. Robert E. Johnson is Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a Tier 1 national research university offering a private college educational experience and public university value. Dr. Johnson previously served seven years as president of Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts, and has dedicated a quarter century of his life to ensuring access to higher education.
A frequent presenter and commentator on issues related to the future of work, Dr. Johnson believes a college education must foster an "Agile Mind," enabling students to develop divergent thinking, social and emotional intelligence, empathy, and an entrepreneurial outlook. A college education should nurture the uniquely human capacities that cannot be replicated by technology and lay the foundation for graduates to add and create value in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world.
Dr. Johnson is known as an innovative and entrepreneurial leader who embraces new economy solutions and their application to higher education. Dr. Johnson’s presentations include the National Academy of Engineers, the Association of Governing Boards (AGB), the American Council on Education (ACE), the Impact Capitalism Summit on Nantucket, and TEDxCambridge.
Dr. Johnson is a member of the Council on Competitiveness and served as a member of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, vice chair of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, and chair of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. He serves on the executive committee of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable.
A native of Detroit, Dr. Johnson was inspired to attend Morehouse College by his late uncle, Robert E. Johnson, who was the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of JET Magazine. His uncle, a classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraged Dr. Johnson’s commitment to service and transforming the next generation of leaders. This influenced Dr. Johnson’s fundamental belief that humanity, civil discourse, and civility must be at the core of all things we do. As engaged and educated citizens on a planet with more than seven billion people, we have social responsibility to inspire the next generation of leaders to transform the world.
At every stage of his higher education career, Dr. Johnson has broken barriers. At the age of 26, Dr. Johnson was named Executive Director of Enrollment Management at Central State University, one of the youngest professionals in the country to hold that position in a four-year institution. At the age of 34, he became Vice Provost at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, becoming the youngest and highest-ranking African American at that institution. In 2004, he was appointed Vice President of Enrollment Management at the University of Dayton, the first African American vice president in the University’s 154-year history. In 2006, Dr. Johnson was appointed to Senior Vice President at Sinclair College, where he was the highest-ranking African American on the 26,000-student campus. In 2010, he was named president of Becker College; he was the first African American to hold that position in the College’s 226-year history. At Becker, Dr. Johnson led the College’s evolution into an adaptive, nimble, and entrepreneurial institution that is a model for colleges and universities across the United States. Dr. Johnson is the first African-American to serve as Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.