Two In One: New campus hire discusses getting best of both worlds with new position
Updated: Oct 5
Kalyn Johnson joins Center for Diversity and Inclusion, residence life staff
By Hope Shrum
After years of wishing to get out of her hometown of Louisville, Kalyn Johnson’s wish came true when Franklin College hired her.
As the new residence life area coordinator and center for diversity and inclusion program coordinator, she will get to apply her experiences from her hometown to her work in the position.
Growing up in a part of the city with a higher crime rate and in a low socioeconomic family, Johnson learned early on that everyone has different barriers that overlap and make their lives hard.
Having just graduated in April from Eastern Michigan University with a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and a focus in higher-education student affairs, Johnson was looking for jobs, mainly dealing with residence life, at large institutions.
Ever since she started her college career at Western Kentucky University, Johnson has loved working in residence life. She started incorporating aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion into her residence life jobs to immerse the students in discussing topics like race, gender and sex.
“At Eastern Michigan University, there were a lot of racial incidents aimed at Black and brown students,” Johnson said. “So, I wanted to create an environment within my residential community that said, ‘This is not tolerated,’ and ‘We are here to educate, and we are here to learn.’”
Even though she has never had a job specifically dealing with diversity and inclusion, one of her final projects for her master’s degree was creating a diversity summit. So, she created a two-day experience where students and professionals could talk about topics they’re passionate about, including race, sex, gender and ability.
Johnson said she would like to off er this summit here at Franklin, but she first wants to get to know the college’s culture before setting anything up.
That is her goal for this fi rst semester in her position: Understand how students want to be treated here, the best forms of communication and what kind of programming students like to attend.
“If I don’t understand that, then I don’t understand how to do my job at all,” Johnson said. “I’m learning how to do my job through the students.”
Senior Reilly Jones, resident assistant in Elsey Hall, was a part of the interview process for a few candidates for the job.
She said that out of all the candidates, Johnson stuck out the most in terms of preparedness, boldness and self-confidence. Jones liked how much experience Johnson had in residence life.
She said that she liked Johnson so much, she texted her supervisor after the interview saying she was the one.
Johnson’s favorite part of working in student aff airs is getting to help students and watching them blossom, grow and even fail.
“Through failing, they learn so much,” she said. “I see it as ‘OK, what are we going to learn next time.’ And I always form it in a ‘we’ because ‘we’re in this together.’”
Even though Johnson had been looking for jobs at larger universities when she first started, she changed her mind after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. She started to think more about the health and safety of herself and the students around her, and she couldn’t see herself in the position to do her job at a place with a higher infection risk.
She also said that working at a smaller institution provides more opportunity to grow in the field, especially since she has both roles in her title, which is something she couldn’t get at larger schools.
Johnson was very happy to learn she can work on both since she is passionate about each of them. Her responsibilities will involve maintaining programming with residence life and with some of the diversity and inclusion programs, including the diversity advocates.
“You can’t see me smiling, but I’ve been smiling this entire time,” she said, referring to the fact that she wore a mask during the interview with The Franklin. “Because doing stuff like this and serving students with my whole heart gets me jazzed. It rocks my world.”