Johnson named associate vice president for Undergraduate Education

Melissa Johnson will join the leadership team in Undergraduate Education on Sept. 20. Credit: Provided by Melissa JohnsonAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Melissa C. Johnson has been named associate vice president and associate dean for Undergraduate Education at Penn State, effective Sept. 20. She succeeds Yvonne Gaudelius, who was promoted to vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education in March 2021.

Johnson comes to Penn State from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she served as professor and chair of the Department of Focused Inquiry, which offers interdisciplinary general education courses focused on improving critical thinking, communication, information fluency and ethical reasoning. She holds a master of fine arts in poetry and a doctorate in 20th-century British literature and women’s studies from the University of South Carolina. A first-generation college student, she earned a bachelor of arts degree in English and fine arts from the College of Charleston.

At Virginia Commonwealth University, Johnson held progressively increasing administrative responsibilities. She served for five years as curriculum and textbook coordinator for two foundational general education courses within the Department of Focused Inquiry before being elected department chair in 2014. During her tenure as chair, she prioritized teaching and learning excellence; diversity, equity and inclusion; and employing data-driven strategic planning for continuous improvement.

Johnson’s many accomplishments at Virginia Commonwealth University include leading the Initiative for Inclusive Classrooms within the University College, which created pilot courses focused on diversity and inclusion, engaged all faculty in creating inclusive classrooms, and enhanced the general education curriculum. She was active in university-wide initiatives as a champion of student success efforts supporting first-generation college students and as a member of the New Student Orientation and Summer Scholars advisory boards, Student Success leadership team, and Task Force on Individual, Institutional and Systemic Bias.

Her published research has focused on the scholarship of teaching and learning, cultural studies, gender and Modernism, and postcolonial literature, and her poetry has been published widely.

In her new role, Johnson will provide leadership to areas related to student success and the support of student learning. She also will collaborate with groups from across the University on broad issues concerning undergraduate education, especially as they relate to first-generation and minoritized students.

“Dr. Johnson brings a wealth of administrative experience to Penn State,” said Yvonne Gaudelius, vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education. “Penn State will benefit greatly from her demonstrated commitment to student success, along with her strong track record of identifying areas for improvement and achieving those improvements through collaborative leadership. We look forward to welcoming Dr. Johnson to Undergraduate Education’s leadership team.”

“I am deeply invested in creating opportunity for and facilitating the success of all undergraduate students so that their educational experience is transformational for them as individuals as well as for the communities of which they are a part,” said Johnson. “I was drawn to this position because of the clear commitment of everyone I met during my interviews to those same aims. I am delighted to be part of the team supporting undergraduate students in their studies and faculty in their teaching at Penn State.”

Penn State Undergraduate Education is the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at


Last Updated September 15, 2021