Anacapa Scholar: Dr. Johnson

A Harvard professor offers his expertise in many areas.
All year long, the campus welcomes visiting scholars, artists in residence, and other guests who share their special expertise. Some become members of the campus community for extended periods of time, others are here only briefly to deliver lectures or meet with students. 

Recently, we welcomed Dr. John Asher Johnson, Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University

What he did on campus: Dr. Johnson visited campus for a whole week, connecting with students and faculty in and out of the classroom and participating in activities as diverse as his interests and expertise.

On the academic front, he talked physics with the entire freshman class; introduced probability, mass and density functions to the Multivariable Calculus class; visited the Robotics and Data Structures class; offered input to the ten students in the Research Astronomy xBlock class, and gave a public talk to the campus regarding multi-dimensional intelligence.

Dr. Johnson, who is the first African-American to be tenured in the physical sciences at Harvard, has also devoted a lot of energy to understanding diversity in education. He shared some of his ideas with members of Thacher's board and the Admission Office, visited Jason Carney's Ethical Issues class and Katherine Halsey's English class, met with leaders of the Human Rights Coalition, and hosted a dinner organized by the BSU, Latinos Unidos, and UCT groups.

He also made time for play, joining a pickup basketball with students in the gym and sitting in on a game of Magic with a group of students. 

Our impressions of him:
I interviewed Dr. Johnson for my Senior Ex, which I am doing on The Identity of Biracial Students. He helped a lot with my topic because he has really interesting insights on race. His reflections on how being biracial affected his upbringing and his life experience helped me find new aspects of a biracial childhood that I want to look into during my research.—Jordan Perry '17

Dr. Johnson is a rare kind of person, and I relish the few moments I am able to spend with him these days. Brilliant in his field, Dr. Johnson also has the ability to relate to people as people, not just experts. His compassion and empathy are at a level more expected of a humanitarian than an astrophysicist, and this is related to Dr. Johnson’s overall mission to empower people of all backgrounds with education and opportunity. In addition to bringing his expertise in astronomy, education, and policy, Dr. Johnson also engaged in our community at a deep personal level during his short visit, and I am happy our students were able to get a view into someone I regard as an exemplary role model.—Dr. Jon Swift
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