Learning from Alumni: Life after Johnston Graduation

As a way to highlight Johnston alumni’s success and promote the living, learning component of a Johnston education, a triple series of lectures and discussions were held last week on Johnston Complex.


Amanda Clayton and Jon Garcia, both Johnston alum, were each asked to host a Kathryn Green lecture, a lecture series inspired and funded by Johnston alumna, Kathryn Green herself. Faculty members invite alumni to come back and host one hour sessions about how their emphasis relates to the work they’re doing now.


“[Kathryn Green’s] biggest desire was for us to keep alumni connected to current students,” said Maggie Ruopp, Johnston’s alumni and admission coordinator. “Also, to build community, not just the community you exist in while you are here, but in the wider community of Johnston people who have gone through the educational model and have gone out and tried to apply that to their life because it can be very hard.”


“They can share those experiences with current students and her currents students can share the way in which Johnston has changed or what they are interested in,” Ruopp continued.


The series kicked off on Monday with Amanda Clayton who graduated in 2007. The Johnston alumna teaches at Vanderbilt University’s political science department with most of her research surrounding the effects of gender parity. Clayton’s lecture presented her life’s research on gender inequality within government on an international scale. She has travelled to Namibia, Lesotho and Uganda to research different forms of government and how representation of female leaders in various countries were affected. Using implicit bias tests, Clayton discovered that people who were exposed to female leadership were more likely to disassociate standard gender roles, such as women belonging in the home and men belonging in the work force.


“[Clayton’s] talk brought our attention to the very different models of democracy that are currently practiced — and introduced various methods of ensuring that there is increased gender equity in government,” said Julie Townsend, director of the Johnston Center for Integrated Studies. “With recent revelations about the deep and persistent patterns that continue to enforce gender inequity, it was inspiring to hear about structural solutions that are making improvements around the world.”


Johnston community and faculty participate in experimental societal functions to incorporate studies into everyday life.  


“When we practice consensus in Johnston, or when we participate in social justice activism, we are participants in the construction of a more equal world,” Townsend explained. “It’s inspiring for students to know that these strategies can go with them after Johnston… can inform their future educational, career, and activist paths.”


Speaker Jon Garcia, a recent graduate of the Johnston Center was eagerly awaited to speak on Friday. A Johnston community email was sent to advertise his lecture, announcing that “Jon Garcia is making a triumphant return to complex to talk to you about his work at the Kapor Center in Oakland, life after Johnston and thrills and challenges of transitioning to adulthood.”


Garcia, class of 2015, is recognized across the campus for activism within the Johnston Community and the greater university. He built his emphasis in “Advancing Culture.” Garcia also was the founder of this publication, the Redlands Bulldog, which he built from the ground up after the university’s previous paper, the Bulldog Weekly, was put on hiatus. Garcia spoke about his professional life after Johnston and how his interdisciplinary education shapes his passion-filled career. Garcia is currently working for a non-profit company, the Kapor Center, that seeks to address the underrepresentation of women and racial minorities in technology based career fields.


“It is our obligation to recognise privilege, especially as students, and harness its power in our advocacy and activism [as Garcia discussed in his lecture],” said Mya Thompson, a Johnston student.


Since the Johnston Center’s genesis ,its students have been passionate about social change and intellectual exploration. As a part of the living, learning atmosphere that Johnston advocates for, many students were inspired from engaging with buffalo alumni on the topics of feminism, politics, and advocacy. Alumni demonstrate to current students that engaging in change is possible. Most importantly, they learned how a Johnston education aided these alumni’s success in both career and personal aspects of their lives after college. The next segment of the lecture series will continue next semester.


photo courtesy of Blair Newman