SDSU alum at center of U.S. news events

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

South Dakota State University gave Sandra Johnson what it takes to go from the Collegian to the Associated Press in Washington D.C.

Johnson, a native of Revillo, SD, came to State because of its journalism program.

“They had an accredited journalism program and I knew I was interested in journalism,” she said.

However, Johnson added more to her plate and doubled major in political science.

During college, she worked on the Collegian. There, she met her husband, Chuck Raasch, a political correspondent for USA Today.

She also worked for the public radio station when it was in Brookings. She got even more journalism experience from being on the yearbook, The Jackrabbit, staff.

One thing Johnson really enjoyed about attending SDSU was the small class sizes. She thought the small classes let the instructor and student have a more personal relationship.

“Teachers were able to give students attention,” she said.

But her social life was her favorite part of college. One of Johnson’s fondest memories is living in the residence halls and cheap, rundown houses. She also liked just hanging out with her friends. One of her favorite places to go was a “de-funked bar” called Horts.

Like many other alumni, Hobo Days is something she truly remembers about State.

“It is a pretty unique tradition,” she said.

Johnson really values the education she received from State. After her graduation in 1978, she left with confidence in her journalism abilities and knew that she would be prepared for a job.

“I came away with a volume of journalism experience that I was able to leap right into the position,” she said.

She went straight to a job with Associated Press in South Dakota.

After five years, she was transferred to Washington D.C. and has worked her way up to the Bureau in Chief of the Washington D.C. AP. She is one of four main editors of the Associated Press in the United States.

The May 2001 issue of The Word and I magazine said she is “on top of all the latest happenings in what is arguably the world’s most important city.”

SDSU hasn’t forgotten about Johnson just as she hasn’t forgotten about them.

Johnson and her husband give back to the journalism program through scholarships for students. She was also awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2000.

Even though she is a busy woman, Johnson still finds to come back to South Dakota.

Both her family and her husband’s family still live in South Dakota, so they often come back for visits.

And once in a while she comes back to the SDSU campus.

She comes to visit her former professors and to show her children the campus.