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Dr. Royel M. Johnson

Dr. Royel M. Johnson

Assistant Professor of Education and African American Studies & Research Associate of Education (HIED)

Phone: 814-863-2655

405B Rackley Building
University Park, PA 16802


  • Education Policy Studies


  • Higher Education Program


  • Center for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE)


Dr. Royel M. Johnson is Assistant Professor of Higher Education within the Department of Education Policy Studies at The Pennsylvania State University (PSU), where he also holds an affiliate appointment in the Department of African American Studies and is Research Associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education.

As a scholar, Johnson engages in interdisciplinary research related to educational access, equity, and student success; and the intersections between race, education, and social policy. In his work, he employs qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methodological approaches and has an explicit  focus on racially minoritized, underserved, and system-impacted student populations across diverse educational contexts.

Some of his current scholarship, for instance, examines the socio-ecological factors that influence college success for youth impacted by foster care; policy- and practice-barriers to college enrollment for students with criminal records; and the role of institutional leaders in cultivating racially equitable campus environments. He has a published over 30 scholarly  publications that appear in a wide-range of outlets including high-impact, peer-reviewed journals such as Urban Education, Teachers College Record, Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, Journal of College Student Development, Journal of Negro Education, and the Professional School Counseling Journal, to name a few. 

Johnson is co-editor of three forthcoming books, Racial Equity on College Campuses: Connecting Research to Practice (SUNY Press), Enacting Student SuccessCritical and Alternative Perspectives for Practice (Jossey-Bass) and Creating New Possibilities for HBCUs with Research (Information Age Publishing). To date, he has secured over $265,000 in grants and contracts from state agencies, foundations, and other funders to to support his scholarship, and currently serves as an external evaluator for two large, federal grants funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences. In 2018, he received funding from the Spencer Foundation (along with Uju Anaya and Liliana Garces; Co-PIs) to host a national convening titled Envisioning Racial Equity on College Campuses: Bridging Research-to-Practice Gaps for Institutional Transformation. Work from this convening will be featured in his forthcoming book with SUNY Press.

Johnson is involved nationally, serving on several editorial boards for the Journal of Minority Achievement, Creativity, & Leadership (2019-)Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition (2016-18), and for the Journal of Education Politics and Economics, where he is Associate Editor (2019-2022). He is also actively involved in the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), American College Personnel Association (ACPA), and American Education Research Association (AERA). For instance, he is past program chair for the Research Focus on Black Education Special Interest Group (SIG) in AERA—the largest SIG in the association.

Drawing on his scholarly expertise and professional experiences in higher education, Johnson has consulted with a number of colleges and universities, and frequently speaks at conferences and leadership academies on issues related to equity-minded leadership, race-conscious student success practices, and college student engagement and sense of belonging, among other important topics, across a wide-range of disciplines and areas in higher education. He is also Co-PI (with Terrell Strayhorn) of the Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs (in partnership Diverse: Issues in Higher Education and ACPA- College Student Educators International) and Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges (in partnership with Diverse: Issues in Higher Education and NISOD) projects, which surveys and recognizes student affairs divisions and community colleges who exemplify strong commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

For his early career accomplishments, ACPA recently selected Johnson to receive their coveted Emerging Scholar Award, which he will receive at their 2020 conference in Nashville, TN. 

Johnson holds a B.A. in Political Science and Ed.M. in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs, with a cognate in Race and Social Policy from Ohio State. And is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. 

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