SDBOR President brings experience, education to job

Jordan Smith

Becoming the South Dakota Board of Regents President was not always something on Kathryn Johnson’s mind.  In fact, she says that she was never interested in becoming the president at all. She is simply filling the need because it was her turn to step up.

Johnson is well-qualified for the job, though, as a graduate from multiple South Dakota universities.  She has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Black Hills State University, a master’s degree in chemistry from Iowa State University, and a doctorate in geology with an emphasis on geochemistry from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

“Kathy Johnson has a really great background, having a Ph.D. from the School of Mines and Technology.  She has both the awareness of the Board of Regents priorities and also research experience,” said SDSU President David Chicoine.

She has 30 years of experience in environmental sciences, particularly mining, and is the owner of Johnson Environmental Concepts of Rapid City.

According to the BOR, Johnson was appointed to the Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology. She is also a member of the National Research Council Committee on Women in Science and Engineering. Johnson has had a distinguished career and is a member of several environmental and chemistry societies, both nationally and at state level.

Having a doctorate gives Johnson a perspective not many other past presidents have had.

“She is one of very few people who has chaired the board with a Ph.D., so she has both the experience of being a South Dakota Board of Regents graduate herself and has the knowledge to address issues,” said Chicoine.

Johnson has two main goals: to support every university in the state system equally, and to reverse the trend of shifting the cost of higher education on to students.

“Our public universities play a critical role in producing a competitive workforce and building a more robust economy for South Dakota,” Johnson said. “It is critical to be thoughtful of how resources are used for this process.”

Funding is a chronic problem in South Dakota’s higher education.

“Part of the struggle is the state has disinvested and now the problem becomes how to have a tuition and fee policy that both assures quality but does not limit access to education,” said Chicoine.

Johnson said each university adds a different value to South Dakota’s education system as a whole, and it’s important to implement proper policies to support each individual institution without hindering support to the others.

Johnson wants to reverse the trend of shifting costs to students by limiting the increase in tuition and increasing the amount of state funding for education. Johnson hopes to establish a stabilized funding system for students enrolled in South Dakota universities.

“Students graduating from SDBOR schools in South Dakota are critical to the economic development of the state,” she said.

Chicoine said Johnson has “great leadership, good educational background and is able to provide resources and understand the issues; we are fortunate to have her as our Board of Regents President for the next two years.”

Johnson is from the Black Hills, and in her free time, she enjoys being outside, whether it’s hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter.