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Biography: Dr. Robert E. Johnson

Dr. Robert E. Johnson, Chancellor, UMass Dartmouth - vertical portrait - low resolution for WEB

Dr. Robert E. Johnson is chancellor of UMass Dartmouth, a national research university providing a private college educational experience and public university value. He has an unyielding belief in higher education as a public good has led him to dedicate his life to providing transformational educational opportunities.

A thought leader and commentator on issues related to the future of work and education, Dr. Johnson believes students, through higher education, must develop divergent thinking skills, social and emotional intelligence, empathy, and an entrepreneurial outlook. These uniquely human capacities cannot be replicated by technology are the hallmarks of success in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous future

A Detroit native, Dr. Johnson was inspired to attend Morehouse College by his late uncle Robert E. Johnson Jr., associate publisher and executive editor of JET Magazine and Morehouse classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He encouraged Dr. Johnson’s commitment to service and transforming the next generation of leaders, influencing his fundamental belief that humanity and civility must be central to all we do. As educated and engaged citizens on a planet with more than seven billion people, we are privileged and thus have a social responsibility not only to leave the world better than we found it but to inspire the next generation of leaders.

Dr. Johnson is a member of the Council on Competitiveness and serves on the executive committee of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, the board of MGH institute of Health Professions, and the Intentional Endowments Network steering committee. He has also served on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, as vice chair of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, and as chair of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Johnson’s 30-year leadership career spans non-profit colleges and universities in the Northeast and Midwest, spanning public, private, urban, rural, small and large institutions, with enrollments from 2,000 to more than 25,000 students. This experience includes public research universities, one of the nation’s largest single-campus community colleges, a large Catholic university, a historically Black university, and a turn-around and transformation of a small private college. His career reflects several firsts—as not only an African-American leader but also the youngest person holding major senior administrative roles

Dr. Johnson is a proponent of innovation and entrepreneurship, hallmarks of his leadership include elevated institutional stature; improved institutional profile and competitive market position; national recognition; enrollment growth and resource development success; and fast-tracked facilities and infrastructure upgrades. He has engaged in future-focused thought leadership around the Future of Work, the Agile Mind, and the Agile University; and innovating for social impact when leading one of the first higher education institutions in the nation to achieve a 100% social impact goal for its endowment.

He has been instrumental in convening transformational conversations with industry, government, and academe that stimulated growth and regional economic opportunity, such as the Mass Impact Summit in 2010 that led to the creation of MassDiGI in 2011, and the annual Marine Science and Technology symposium series at UMass Dartmouth that led to the creation of the MERIT Center to support regional job growth and economic development. Dr. Johnson holds a doctorate in higher education administration from Touro University International, formerly a division of Touro College, New York; a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Cincinnati; and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Morehouse College. He is married to Michelle Jones-Johnson. They have two children, Jasmine and Alex.

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is part of the five-campus University of Massachusetts system. A national research university located on 710 scenic acres on the SouthCoast of Massachusetts, it has nearly 9,000 students in undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs; a 400-member faculty that produces $27 million annually in research activity; and more than 50,000 alumni. UMass Dartmouth generates nearly $500 million of regional economic activity annually.


Leadership Philosophy

Chancellor Robert E. Johnson introduced to UMass Dartmouth community by UMass President Marty Meehan. Video credit: Dartmouth Community TV

Leadership Philosophy

Learn more about Chancellor Johnson's views on higher education and leadership at:

We’re going to put our students first, because that is what we are here for.

Dr. Robert E. Johnson

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