Alcorn State University’s 2014-2015 Student Government Association president continues to make strides as a leader with his latest promotion.
Dr. Zackeus Johnson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business management in 2015, is Southern University and A&M College’s dean of University College. In his new role, Johnson recruits freshman seminar instructors, provides first- and second-year student academic and social programming, and assesses students from one semester to the next, among other things.
Representing HBCU students is a dream fulfilled for Johnson. He’s proud to be in a position to uplift the future generation.
“Being promoted still feels surreal,” said Johnson. “However, serving in this capacity at an HBCU makes me feel that I am continuously reaching my goals, both personally and professionally. The role allows me to serve as a voice for marginalized and underrepresented students.”
Professional development is essential for Johnson. He attended conferences such as the National First-Year Experience Conference and became a Higher Education Leadership Foundation member to equip himself for his new role. Johnson’s said that the position of dean is a step toward his ultimate goal, which is becoming a college president.
“Both professional conferences provided resources and connections that allowed me to find mentors that prepared me for my new role. I’ve always aspired to become a college president. Throughout my four years at Southern University and A&M College, I’ve had an opportunity to attend conferences and institutes that groomed me for my current position.”
Retaining students is Johnson’s mission. He believes that accomplishing this goal will take a collective effort from those responsible for providing students with a quality college experience.
“Retention is everybody’s business, and Enrollment Management, Student Affairs, and Academic Affairs must join forces and create synergy and seamless processes for students and families from year one to year four. My goal is to ensure students are retained from one semester to the next, provide top tier resources and infrastructures that allow students to be globally competitive, build relationships with deans and chairs to provide an exceptional classroom experience for all students.”
Aside from his new role, Johnson has made an impact on Southern’s campus with his Peer Mentoring Program. Students that participate in the program are paired with an upperclassman, faculty member, or alumni within the same academic college, major, or concentration.
Johnson believes that mentoring is an essential element of a student’s development.
“Mentoring students is important, as we deal with many generations of students in one setting. Students are now attracted to success stories but desire to hear about the disparities and obstacles they may encounter during their undergraduate years. They are requested to meet with their mentor weekly to share any challenges, successes, or other experiences. The goal is to ensure we retain mentors and mentees and encourage them to become mentors for the incoming class.
Building a lasting legacy by having a positive impact on students and his peers is Johnson’s purpose.
“Impact has always been important to me, whether it was during my high school leadership, serving as SGA President at Alcorn, or an academic advisor at Southern. People and students will always remember how you made them feel. Therefore, it is crucial to leave a positive impact at all times. Impact allows students to be vulnerable and tap into skills that are related to success, positivity, and forward-thinking.”
One of Johnson’s most significant accomplishments was earning a doctorate in higher education from Louisiana State University (LSU) in August 2020. He explained what it took for him to complete his studies while maintaining his career.
“Earning a doctorate at age 27 took self-discipline and sacrifice. I had to buckle down and focus on rigorous research, which led me to sacrifice time with my family. Thankfully, I have a supportive family and positive influences that motivated me to finish with a winning attitude.”
As Johnson reflects on his path to success, he thanks Alcorn for preparing him for this moment. He acknowledges several of his mentors for their role in shaping him into the man he is today.
“My foundation at Alcorn paved the way for my success. I’m thankful for Dr. M. Christopher Brown’s inspiring words and leadership, Dr. Alfred Rankins’ encouragement and tenacity, and Ms. Devina Hogan and Ms. Shirley Tinner’s support, love, and inspiration. The student and classroom experiences were unmatched because everyone was family. Everyone genuinely cared about your success. My undergraduate experience, the unwavering love and support shown, and most importantly, the exposure and meaningful relationships that were formed will never be forgotten. I owe it all to Alcorn State University.”