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Meet the Learning Commons Staff: Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson is Senior Academic Advisor in the Center for Student Academic Success. She was interviewed by Thelma Dzialo, Library Operations Manager.

How long have you worked at RWU?

I’ve worked at RWU for 8 years. I started in the Academic Advising Center doing strictly academic advising and now work within the Center for Student Academic Success (CSAS). Our office is open to any student who needs academic assistance or academic advising. I also work with students who are withdrawing from the university, reinstating, or who are on probation.



What drew you to RWU?

  I’ve worked at several local universities in various capacities. I worked at Salve Regina University doing academic advising with graduate students and moved from there to CCRI to work with GED students transitioning to college. After a year of doing that, I realized that I wanted to get back to more traditional academic advising. An opportunity presented itself at RWU, I applied and was lucky enough to be hired.



I noticed in your online bio that you have a graduate certificate in expressive arts from Salve Regina University. What exactly does that training entail? 

 I have a Master’s degree in Humanities with a concentration in Holistic Counseling from Salve Regina University. The graduate certificate in expressive arts was part of that training. I learned techniques that can help people get through life’s difficult times by using journaling, music and sound, and drawing. These techniques help people develop emotional literacy and resilience, and are a way for me as a counselor to bring heart and the act of service into my work.


What do you like best about your job?

 I love being able to help students figure out what will make them happy in life. I recently completed a StrengthsFinder training in Atlanta and it confirmed what I already knew–that I am doing work that inspires me and is suited to my personality. I found that my top five strengths are empathy, maximizer (the ability to make things happen for people), positivity, adaptability, and woo (winning others over–the ability to inspire and motivate others).



What advice would you give to students, especially incoming freshmen and transfers?

 Figure out what you like to do! Meet with me and I’ll use all the tools at my disposal to explore different areas of study with you and help you figure out how you can use your education to do what you love. Once you have an idea of what you are interested in, I would highly recommend that you explore internships in that area. The earlier you get an internship, the better.


What book are you currently reading? Do you have a favorite genre?

  I just read Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, and enjoyed it tremendously. I don’t read a particular genre. I’ve gotten into the habit of asking the librarians on campus for book recommendations so I’m always reading something new.


Outside of work, what hobbies or activities do you enjoy?

 I took a class at Norman Bird Sanctuary on soap-making several years ago and fell in love with the process. I make scented soaps, and have found that most people love the soothing scent of lavender.