Dr. Royel M. Johnson

By Staff

Tell us about your education and current position.

I earned my undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Political Science and Education Policy Studies. I went on The Ohio State University where I completed a PhD program in higher education and student affairs, with a concentration in race and social policy. Currently, I am tenured professor in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California, with a secondary appointment in the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. As a professor, I teach and conduct research on issues related to education access, racial equity and student success. As a publicly engaged scholar, I work hard to translate insights from my research to actionable recommendations and strategies that can help improved the material conditions of racial/ethnic minorities and other marginalized communities.

Tell us about your book.

My new book, “Racial Equity on College Campuses: Connecting Research to Practice” was written with a single goal in mind. That is, to provide higher education administrators and faculty with accessible resources and tools to address systemic racial inequities on their campus. My co-editors and I bring together an outstanding group of leading scholars and practitioners to tackle some of the most intractable racial equity issues impacting higher education in the areas of university leadership, teaching and learning, and student and campus life. What distinguishes this book from others is that we worked directly with higher education practitioners from across the country to crowdsource issues and challenges that impact their work on the ground, which serve as the basis of the volume.

Why did you become an author?

I never imagined or dreamed of writing/editing a book. I remember a mentor from graduate school sharing with me that you write when you have something to say. I had something to say about the current state of higher education and work that needs to be done to improve the material conditions of racially/ethnic minority faculty, staff and students. That’s why I became an author.

What kind of impact do you desire to have on our culture?

As a scholar my hope is to continue engaging in research that offers insight into and solutions for addressing racial inequities in education and other social systems. Through my work I also try to center and celebrate the resilience, agency, and resistance of communities of color and other marginalized groups. I want folks who look like me to have equitable life opportunities—that’s the impact I want to have on our culture.

What advice would you give someone who seeks to become an author.

Be clear about your purpose. What do you have to say? Why is it important? Why now? Why you? Once you’re clear about those things, I think the rest is easy.

What can people expect from you in the next five years?

It’s hard to forecast what the future holds for me, but I am committed to expanding my research and figuring out how to make my work for useful and actionable. You can expect more books though. I am working on a book project that chronicles the educational and life experiences of young people impacted by the foster care system that I hope will be out in the next year or so.

Photo by Bradford Rogne Photography


Dr. Royel M. Johnson is Associate Professor of Higher Education with tenure in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. He is also the inaugural Director of Student Engagement in the USC Race and Equity Center and a faculty affiliate in the Pullias Center for Higher Education. Prior to joining USC, he was on the faculty at Penn State, where he was the inaugural Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education.

Dr. Johnson is a nationally recognized expert on issues of educational access, racial equity, and student success. His work has an unapologetic focus on Black and multiply marginalized populations like those impacted by the criminal punishment, child welfare, and inequitable educational systems. He has more than 60 academic publications including articles in journals such as the Journal of Higher Education, Peabody Journal of Education, Teachers College Record, and Journal of College Student Development.

In February 2022, SUNY Press published Racial Equity on College Campuses: Connecting Research and Practice, a book for which Dr. Johnson is lead editor. He is also co-editor of a new monograph with Jossey-Bass, Enacting Student Success: Critical and Alternative Perspectives for Practice, and is currently writing his first sole-authored book, Family Matters: How Youth in Foster Care Access College, which will be published by Teachers College Record. Dr. Johnson has been awarded over $5.1 million in grants and contracts from organizations such as the Spencer Foundation, Institute of Education Sciences (IES), and Department of Health and Human Services, among others.

Dr. Johnson is deeply committed translational research that informs policy and practice. He has delivered over 100 invited talks and regularly consults with campuses and national organizations. In 2020, Pennsylvania legislators sought his consultation on HB2952, which aims to ban the use of criminal record screening on college applications. He is Co-Director of the EdEquity Research-to-Policy Collaborative with Dr. Francesca Lopez (Penn State)—a rapid response network designed to increase the use of research by critically conscious education scholars in policy making. Dr. Johnson is also Co-PI of a $1.53 million project funded by IES, The Research Institute for Scholars of Equity (RISE), which is a national training program that provides undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds experiences in conducting mixed-methods education research and prepares them for doctoral study.

In recognition of Dr. Johnson’s outstanding early career achievements, he was awarded the 2020 Distinguished Young Alumni Award from the University of Illinois. He has also received the 2020 Emerging Scholar Award and 2022 Outstanding Contribution to Multicultural Education and Research Award from ACPA—College Educators International. In recognition of his “exemplary leadership” in Penn State’s College of Education, he was awarded the 2021 Cotterill Leadership Enhancement Award.

Dr. Johnson is a two-time graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a B.A. in Political Science and an Ed.M. in Educational Policy Studies. He earned his Ph.D. in higher education and student affairs, with a cognate in race and social policy, from The Ohio State University.

Social Media:

IG: @Dr.RoyelJohnson

Twitter: @RoyelJohnson

Website: royeljohnson.com