Barry McNamara  |   Published August 14, 2016

Ready to help

Johnson ’01 returns to alma mater as director of multicultural student services
  • Monmouth College welcomes Regina Bannan Johnson ’01 back to campus as the new director of multicultural student services.
When she arrived as a freshman at Monmouth College, Regina Bannan Johnson ’01 believed she could be easily defined as only one type of student – an athlete.

That attitude changed as she was exposed to the richness of life at a liberal arts college. Now, Johnson will work with Monmouth students to help them discover and define their identities as the College’s new director of multicultural student services.

In many ways, Johnson is an exemplar of the personal growth that takes place within a liberal arts environment. She came to Monmouth from Washington, Ill., to run track, and she quickly immersed herself in that circle, with her first friends being teammates.

“But what brought me here didn’t end up defining me,” Johnson said. “You can get pigeonholed into a stereotype, and I was, at first.”

Johnson laughs when she recalls her friendship with a relative outsider, Amy Stark Spong ’99, who introduced her to the world of theatre on campus.

“Before we became friends, she used to think I was ‘one of them’ – an arrogant athlete – and I thought she was ‘one of them’ from theatre,” Johnson said. “We’ve remained great friends. She was part of my wedding, and I was part of hers.”

Johnson continued to make friends as she got involved with campus life. She joined the Coalition for Ethnic Awareness and was its president her senior year. She also interned in the residence life office, an experience that she said “really changed my perspective.”

“It’s a combination of both experiences – being an athlete and branching out on campus – that gave me a true foundation of what life was supposed to look like,” Johnson said. “That’s what college is for. The experiences I had at Monmouth created a much different ‘Regina’ from the one at matriculation to the one at graduation.”

Before returning to Monmouth, Johnson was an award-winning salesperson for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, a position she held for 10 years.

“I’m a competitor,” said Johnson, who is married to veteran Fighting Scots assistant football coach Nate Johnson ’98. “I’m always going to have that athletic mindset. I’m always still looking for that next high of completing a challenge. I also believe my background in athletics fostered a work ethic in me that has helped me be successful. Being competitive is not a deficiency. It’s all in how you choose to use it.”

Initially, Johnson was a teacher at nearby Galesburg High School, leading classes such as AP US History, Diversity Studies and World Cultures.

“Those classes were instrumental to my relationships with students and helped me to promote diversity/inclusion while in the classroom,” she said.

In her new role, Johnson will advise three student organizations geared toward minority students – Umoja, Raices and Colorful Voices of Praise. She will also direct the College’s peer mentoring programs, including a new program funded by the Associated Colleges of Illinois.

“I wish there had been something of that nature back in my day,” she said.

As a first-generation college student, Johnson said there were times when she doubted her academic abilities.

“The fact that I walked across the Wallace Hall stage to accept my Monmouth College diploma was a pretty big thing in my family,” she said. “My grandfather didn’t have a high school diploma, and my grandmother was an immigrant. They were rocks for me, but they didn’t always have the answers I needed.”
In her new director role, Johnson will help find those answers for Monmouth students, providing the same support she received from faculty members who “made sure I was going to get across that stage with a diploma.”
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