Announcing Erik Johnson as the New DGS

Erik is forward facing with a soft smile.
Erik Johnson

This spring, the department welcomed Associate Professor Erik Johnson into his new role as the director of Graduate Studies. The previous DGS, Justin T. Denney, entered a new position in the WSU Ombuds Office. The department thanks Justin for his efforts and leadership during his time as the DGS.

Erik earned a PhD from Penn State in 2004 and joined WSU faculty in 2009. His areas of interest are environmental sociology, social movements, political sociology, and organizations. While Erik will pen a letter to the newsletter audience in the fall, we wanted to announce the change and briefly touch base with our new DGS.

After a one-year grad recruitment hiatus in order to offer some additional support to our current students amid the pandemic, we are back to recruiting this year. How was your first experience with recruitment?

Erik: When it comes to recruiting new students, it’s not as though we are trying to sell a product and then walk away after the transaction is complete. We’re developing and investing in a relationship with a person for five or six years. It’s more about, “This is who we are, and this is what our program is, and is WSU Sociology a good fit for you or not?” I’ve been lucky because my sense is that most programs in the country are down in applications, and our program had more applications this year than in the past. Justin set me up well in terms of pre-recruiting, so we were able to identify a large pool of students we’re really excited about.

What does the future hold for the graduate program?

Erik: I study organizations and one of the things I know is that when people assume leadership positions they quickly get overwhelmed with the day-to-day activities. So before I started, I wrote down what I’d like to do as DGS. My three goals are: 1) to increase salaries for grad students; 2) to improve mentoring especially of first-generation and minority students, and; 3) to increase applications from undergraduate liberal arts schools. Almost all of our applications are from large state and regional schools, and I want to diversify that population of applicants.