Penn State Smeal management professor serves on 2018 University Homecoming court

Kristina Hahn
October 15, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Considering the lasting impact that Ron Johnson has had on so many Penn State Smeal College of Business students, it’s not a surprise that the associate teaching professor of management and organization was one of six faculty members selected by students to serve on the 2018 University Homecoming Court.

“I'm excited about this idea of homecoming because Penn State is a big family,” Johnson said. “If you think about all the alumni out there, you're basically going to graduate into the family of Penn State. So, I like homecoming because we do a celebration of all things amazing at Penn State. I’m a part of that family and for me to be a part of homecoming I feel grateful for the opportunity.”

Johnson has been with Penn State since 1996, starting with a joint appointment with the Smeal College of Business and the College of Engineering. Since 2011 he has worked exclusively for Smeal’s Management and Organization Department. Since then he has made an impact on several thousand students every year in his teaching of two core Smeal business courses: Management 301: Introduction to Management and Business Administration 342: Social Responsibility, Sustainable & Ethical Business Practices.

Johnson said he enjoys his unique position in shaping Smeal students’ education.

“I currently have 1,300 students,” he said. “I’m at the front door, I get all the freshmen. Then I have BA 342: leadership competency that juniors and seniors take, so I’m at the exit. So, you actually can't get in or out without taking my classes.”

Johnson has the unique ability of capturing his whole audience in lectures and engaging them in such a way that his lessons really stick with students. Every student within Smeal has to take at least one class with him and they aren’t shy about admitting to his impact and genuine caring for his students and the material being taught.

“Honestly, I’ve never had a professor that cares more about our career development, reaching our goals, and inspiring students the way Professor Johnson does,” said Lisa Lewis, a junior finance student in Smeal. "He can (engage) the entire lecture room and have an impact on every student. I think that’s profound and not every professor can achieve that presence in the room.”

Although nominated once before, this was Johnson’s first time serving on the University Homecoming Court. To be selected, students nominate a member of faculty or staff that they think embodies the idea of Penn State pride and would serve well. Several of Johnson’s students nominated him this year. They said they know Johnson embraces the spirit of Penn State and he always tells his students how important it is to be involved all around campus.

Junior marketing major Ashley Au said “he says he’s involved in everything and you think he’s kidding but he’s actually serious. I’ve seen him many times around the Business Building being super involved in the community.”

Johnson said he believes that all his students need to “break out of the bubble.”

“There are so many ways to engage in the wider world and apply the things you’re learning and see how cool the world is and you can have an impact,” he said.

Just as Johnson encourages all of his students to ‘break out of the bubble,’ he, too, is actively involved in Smeal. He has been the founding adviser for Net Impact within Smeal, where over the last six years he has has gotten thousands of students engaged with the organization and learning about sustainability, social responsibility and ethics – the pillars that support his classes. Johnson says he enjoyed more than anything starting to impact students outside of the classroom and helping them grow professionally.

After years of participating in homecoming events as an attendee, Johnson said he was excited and interested to experience the new aspect of being in the parade, getting to be on the field during halftime at the football game, and participating in other events.

Lewis was in his class a few weeks ago when the committee came in to announce he had been chosen.

“I was so happy for him,” she said. “They brought him in balloons and a banner and the whole class was clapping for him. I’ve never seen him look so happy.”

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Last Updated October 15, 2018