President Spotlight: Beth Anne Johnson
Beth Anne Johnson, the associate director of Clemson University’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, is this year’s President of the WEPAN Board of Directors, who are responsible for defining WEPAN’s mission and for providing overall leadership and strategic direction to the organization.
Johnson became a member of WEPAN in 2019 after joining WISE, whose mission is to educate, recruit, and retain underrepresented populations in STEM fields through mentoring, academic coaching, and academic enrichment. She was looking for resources she could leverage to help support her and her team of undergraduates in her new role, and she found them.
“We have a really special community at WEPAN, and I’ve met with tremendous friends and colleagues across the United States,” says Johnson. “For example, Paula Lampley, the Women in Engineering Director in the Office of Inclusive Excellence and Community Engagement at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science, came and spoke with my students. We’ve also chatted about summer programs and shared best practices. It’s such a relief, especially in today’s political and social climate, to have people you can turn to when you’re in need, friends who can say, ‘I’ve been in that position, here’s what I did’ and offer you great advice.”
For her work, at Clemson, Johnson was recently named the 2022 winner of the WEPAN Women in Engineering Champion Award for her volunteer contributions to STEM education at the primary, secondary, or collegiate levels. The WISE program was named winner of the Women in Engineering Program Award for an outstanding women in engineering program that serves as a model for other institutions.
Johnson’s path to STEM equity work is a fascinating one. With undergraduate degrees in English and the performing arts, she completed her graduate research as a leisure scientist, looking at parks, recreation, and tourism management. “You can tell who’s equitable and free by who is able to pursue leisure, so I started with a social justice mindset. It was interesting to see that the statistics for female identifying athletes in male-dominated sports are similar to the statistics for first year incoming engineering and computer science students.”
One of the biggest projects Johnson has for her time as president is to continue building the WEPAN community with a podcast, which she’s launching with president-elect Jamie Huber Ward, the Associate Director of Aspirations in Computing and a social scientist with the National Center for Women & Information Technology at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Stories are powerful tools. I want to create a platform where people who are underrepresented in STEM have the chance to share their experiences and help others build the knowledge and resilience they need to do great work in this area.”
Another way she plans to ensure WEPAN continues growing is to shepherd to the creation of a strategic plan, mapping out goals and objectives for three, five, and ten years into the future.
Johnson adheres to the Adlerian perspective, a holistic approach to psychology and management she hopes to apply to her tenure as president. “In higher education and industry, there’s often a very clear hierarchical direction of leadership. I want to lead from a horizontal direction instead, so that people know their value and enjoy their work and their roles. Whether you’re a WEPAN staff member, board member, or community member, as we navigate gender equity in today’s world, I want you to know that you’re supported and never have to feel alone.”