Ayana Elizabeth Johnson was appointed this month as Bowdoin’s next Roux Distinguished Scholar. This award will bring Johnson to Bowdoin’s Environmental Studies Program and allow her to engage with the community on curricular and co-curricular levels.
Johnson earned a bachelors degree in environmental science and public policy from Harvard University and holds a Ph.D. in marine biology from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. She has also participated alongside the federal government and nonprofit sector to create environmental policy, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She is the co-author of the Blue New Deal, a popular environmental policy that focuses on oceanic preservation, along with countless other recognizable works.
Johnson’s appointment sparked excitement across the College. Addison Davis ’25, an environmental studies major, believes that Johnson will be an inspiring force on campus.
“I think environmental studies has a tough time with seeing how what we are talking about will be applied to actual job space,” Davis said. “Classes like environmental policy and politics do a good job of showing us what we’re doing, but I think with this new professor it will be good to see what somebody who’s currently very prominent in the field of environmental studies is doing.”
Professors in the Environmental Studies Program are also thrilled to work alongside Johnson. Director of the Environmental Studies Program and Professor of History and Environmental Studies Connie Chiang believes that the addition of Johnson to the program’s faculty will only deepen the curriculum and breadth of knowledge.
“My colleagues and I are eager to listen to and learn from Johnson and just take in her knowledge and wisdom based on her years of experience in the environmental field,” Chiang wrote in an email to the Orient. “I expect that her time here will shape our approach to teaching about and studying the environment well after her tenure as Roux Scholar.”
Students and faculty are looking forward to engaging with Johnson, both through her courses and through public lectures, which are a key component of the position. Considering her background in ocean conservation and experience studying inequity in climate response, Johnson will provide nuance to the Environmental Studies Program’s framing of environmental response.
Violet Apodaca ’25, an intended environmental studies major, is excited to take Johnson’s classes and visit her office hours to ask her questions.
“I’ve followed her for years,” Apodaca said. “And so it’s really crazy that she’s coming here because she’s a personal hero of mine.”