By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
Josh Johnson (B.S., ’20) is a leader, a difference-maker, and, as President Joyce McConnell referred to him at a lunch with student leaders, “an influencer.” He comes from a family that includes five generations of military veterans, stretching back to the Civil War.
Upon graduating from high school, Johnson joined the Air Force in 2009. He was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, where he became an expert in airfield management. He describes it as a “make-or-break place” where he learned “to take care of myself, make the best of wherever I am, and control the one thing I can ̶ my own attitude.” Next, he volunteered for an assignment to South Korea, spending one year there, followed by two years in England and six months in Spain.
During this time, he took college classes at night and, as his exit from the Air Force neared, began the search for a university. His three criteria were a psychology program (CSU’s industrial and organizational psychology program is ranked top ten nationally), a triathlon team (CSU’s is top five nationally), and an institutional valuing of veterans (Military Times ranks CSU in the top three nationally).
Upon leaving the active duty Air Force, Johnson joined the Air National Guard, serving part-time while attending CSU. He worked as a deputy airfield manager before his recent promotion to First Sergeant. He enrolled spring semester 2018 and fully embraced leadership roles in several campus organizations. He served on the Student Media Board of Directors, Lory Student Center Governing Board, Natural Sciences College Council, and as an ASCSU Senator. He was a research assistant in a multinational clinical study with Professor Lynn Shore. He also competed on the CSU triathlon team, where he met “the happiest, most motivated, and dedicated people on the planet” and was one of the top four males on the team.
Johnson’s greatest influence was with the Student Veterans Organization, a chapter within the Student Veterans of America. His contributions have rewritten the cultural divide between traditional and non-traditional students. He overhauled the annual Veterans Day ceremony, helped secure free parking on campus for disabled veterans, launched a website www.csusvo.com, and shared best practices when he united 13 university SVA chapters across Colorado. All these efforts culminated in it receiving the 2019 Chapter of the Year award out of 1,500 across the country. Johnson brought 21 student veterans to accept the award at the national conference. His response to that speaks volumes to his character: “Winning as a team is far better than winning as an individual.” Johnson praises CSU’s Adult Learner and Veteran Services program, noting its “comprehensive support was a key component to my success.” He finished his senior year leading Operation Bear Hug, a campus suicide-prevention obstacle course, continuing it as a virtual challenge this spring rather than cancelling it.
So, why isn’t this amazing fellow in his Fort Collins home, following safer-at-home recommendations? During the 2020 spring semester, he volunteered when the National Guard deployed some members for COVID-19 duty. He currently is assisting the Montezuma County emergency manager with planning and logistics as well as FEMA reimbursements.
Josh Johnson is “proud to be a CSU Ram,” recently becoming a Lifetime Member of the Alumni Association. His father, who taught him how to connect with people and develop a work ethic, and his mother, who directed his focus toward serving others, must be as proud as we are of this remarkable Ram!