Dr. J moves on



Dr. Leslie Johnson is moving on to work for the state of Vermont.

Dr. Leslie Johnson, associate professor of behavioral sciences-psychology at Northern Vermont University-Johnson, is leaving NVU at the end of this semester.
In a recent interview with Basement Medicine, Johnson said that she is taking a job as a data and statistical analyst at the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living. Her last day at NVU will be Dec. 4.
Johnson said that she is leaving for multiple reasons, but mostly because she has been teaching for 10 years now, and is “ready for a new adventure.”
“COVID got me thinking about my life and what I wanted to accomplish and working in state government is something that I actually set out to do at the beginning of my career … and now is a good time to make the change,” Johnson said.
“I’m a social psychologist by training – it’s what my Ph.D. is in – and it’s always been a goal of mine in my career to work to help people who face disadvantage and social stigma. Up until this point, I’ve been doing that by educating students and doing research.”
Amanda Rosalbo, a psychology major at NVU-Johnson, took a number of classes with “Dr. J.,” as Johnson is known to her students.
Rosalbo said that Johnson had a significant impact on her students. “She pointed me in the direction that I now want to take my life,” she said. “She’s a super influential person. She’s one of those teachers where you’re like ‘oh, yeah, I’m never going to forget her,’ which is cool, and I feel like she’s that for a lot of students here.”
Professor Gina Mireault, chair of the behavioral sciences department at NUV-Johnson, agrees with this assessment. “She’s had a tremendous impact on our students, our psychology program, and the wider NVU campus,” Mireault said in a recent email.
“Those effects will certainly remain following her departure,” she said.
“During her time at NVU she’s become a favorite teacher known for “nerding out” on psychological science and for providing the combination of challenge and support that has helped her students produce their best work. Students routinely comment that her classes are demanding but fun and are marked by Leslie’s signature superpower for organization and planning. She often left her students wanting more, which was best evidenced by the line that eagerly followed her from the classroom to her office.”
Mireault noted that Johnson won the student-nominated Excellence in Advising award last year. “Her investment in the success of each advisee was genuine and was clear in her attention and dedication to each of them,” Mireaualt said.
“Although we wish her well in her new position as a data analyst for the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, we will sorely miss her irreplaceable presence at NVU.”
Johnson said that she will work with the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living to help them find out who is using their services with the hope that this research will inform the department’s work on policy with the governor’s office and other state agencies.
Johnson, who received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Vermont, said that she fell into teaching as a job while working as a teaching assistant in graduate school. She has worked at NVU since the fall of 2015.
“I have really enjoyed and loved being a part of the community at Johnson. And I have loved working with my students, it’s been the most joyful part of my job for the past ten years as a faculty member,” Johnson said. “It’s just been a joy for me to be here.” She said that the reason she is leaving is about her and her career direction. “I really love Johnson, and I’m just going to be standing on the sidelines cheering and hoping for the best as things move forward for the institution.”
Rosalbo said that it would be sad to see Johnson leave, but that the psychology department at NVU will be fine. Rosalbo, who is the student representative on the search committee looking to fill Johnson’s place, spoke highly of the rest of the faculty in the department. “I know for a fact that I want to, personally, find someone who will really help sustain the psychology department because I do think it is one of our strongest majors here,” Rosalbo said. “Losing Dr. J. is definitely a hit, but I think the other people in the psychology department are also just as awesome as she is.”
“We’ll definitely miss her, but I think we’ll be OK.”