Dr. Michelle R. Johnston named president of GSW

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) today named Dr. Michelle R. Johnston president of Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW), effective June 1, 2024. She will be the first female president in GSW history.

Johnston currently serves as president of the College of Coastal Georgia, a position she’s held since July 2018. Prior to joining Coastal Georgia, Johnston spent more than 20 years in higher education administration, including as president of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College in Ohio, a position she had held since 2014.

“Michelle has done a tremendous job at Coastal Georgia expanding community partnerships and increasing student success in everything from Teacher Education to Nursing, with an emphasis on the skills our graduates need to impact critical workforce areas in Georgia,” USG Chancellor Sonny Perdue said. “I’m a strong believer in growing our own, and this is a natural next step for Dr. Johnston as she continues to make an impact within the system. I know she will help GSW sustain momentum as one of the top state universities in the South.”

GSW has been led by interim President Teresa MacCartney since May 11, when former President Neal Weaver stepped down to take the helm at Stephen F. Austin University in Texas. When Johnston’s appointment takes effect, MacCartney will transition back to her role as USG’s chief operating officer.

“I’m incredibly grateful to the board and Chancellor Perdue for their confidence in me,” Johnston said. “It’s been a privilege to have been part of Coastal Georgia’s Mariner family, and I know I will be building on that work as a Hurricane. I can’t wait to take a stroll down Hello Walk and work with GSW’s dedicated faculty and staff to keep making sure our students take the world by storm.”

Perdue named Dr. Johnny L. Evans Jr., Coastal Georgia’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, as the college’s interim president upon Johnston’s departure. Before joining Coastal Georgia in January 2019, Evans held leadership positions as the dean of math and science and subsequently as the dean of arts and sciences at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, starting in 2013. He spent the first 13 years of his academic career at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., where he was a professor of chemistry and physics and the chemistry program coordinator.

About Dr. Michelle R. Johnston

Before she began her tenure at Coastal Georgia, Johnston served as president of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College. Her more than 25-year career in higher education has included service as a faculty member and administrator at the University of Montevallo, the University of Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State University and Wood College.

In 2014, Dr. Johnston was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Defense to the Marine Corps University Board, where she served as the chair. She currently serves on the boards of the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Georgia, Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber, Coastal Georgia Historical Society and the Coastal Symphony of Georgia.

Johnston has been a leader at state and national levels on campus sexual assault response and prevention, including invitations by the Obama and Trump administrations for meetings at the White House and with the U.S. Secretary of Education. She is active as a presenter and spokesperson in local, state, regional, national and international settings.

Johnston holds a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from the University of Alabama, a master’s degree in piano performance from Louisiana State University, a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Mississippi State University and a post-doctorate in marketing and management from the University of Florida.