The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Becky Johnson Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

August 3, 2015


“A Leader for Central Oregon's Four-Year University”  August 3, 2015  Location: Graduate and Research Center, OSU-Cascades, Bend, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Johnson discusses her upbringing in Wisconsin, the development of her interests in economics and natural resources, and her educational experiences at the University of Wisconsin and Michigan State University.

Johnson next begins a series of reflections on her time at OSU, starting with her arrival in Corvallis, her initial impressions of the Forestry department, and the barriers that she encountered as a woman working in a unit that had traditionally been comprised entirely of men. She then recounts changes in the curriculum offered by Forestry as the forest products industry shifted, as well as changes in the types of students pursuing degrees within the college. She likewise touches upon her own evolution as a teacher and researcher.

The session then shifts focus to Johnson's administrative career, beginning with her first inclinations to pursue an administrative position, her memories of cuts at OSU in the wake of the passage of Ballot Measure 5, and her engagement with various OSU presidents. She then notes her activities as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and International Programs within the College of Forestry and, later, as OSU's Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and International Programs.

The remainder of the interview is dedicated to Johnson's involvement with OSU-Cascades. In this, she provides an overview of the creation of the Bend campus, its leadership and slow growth during the early 2000s, and her assumption of leadership duties in 2008. She also discusses the ways in which she has worked to engage with the local community in central Oregon; plans for expanding OSU-Cascades' physical campus in Bend; challenges that Cascades faces with respect to both online learning and curricular development; and her optimism for the future of central Oregon and the role that OSU-Cascades might play in regional growth.

As the session nears its end, Johnson reflects on the evolving leadership roles that women have assumed at OSU, and details her own involvement with regional and statewide economic advising commissions. The interview concludes with Johnson's thoughts on the state of the university as it looks toward its sesquicentennial.