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assistant dean kimberly johnson on cnr's future

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In July, Kimberly Johnson joined CNR as assistant dean of instruction and student affairs, with responsibility for student recruitment, advising, and matriculation. She previously worked at the campus Career Center and in the College of Engineering, as well as at the University of Maryland-College Park. Breakthroughs recently caught up with Johnson to pose a few questions.

CNR prides itself on its "small college" identity, but enrollment is growing. How will CNR face the challenges that this growth poses?

Fortunately, the College anticipated this growth and developed an Undergraduate Task Force that consists of student advisors and faculty members to evaluate our undergraduate education. The group recommended addressing advising and mentoring. So this year we expanded undeclared faculty advising to help students feel more comfortable interacting with professors early in their academic careers. This is one of many ways we create a welcoming setting for students.

If you could achieve just one major goal in your time here at CNR, what would it be?

I'd want to significantly increase enrollment from underrepresented populations. But it will take more than increased recruiting at high schools; that can't increase the pool of eligible students. We need to educate parents, talk to students as early as sixth grade, provide supplemental education programs, and build relationships with guidance counselors. There are a lot of potential applicants who could truly succeed at Berkeley with the right preparation. To solve the world's biggest problems, we need to turn out diverse graduates with a vast array of perspectives. It's not just a cliché that Berkeley should reflect the diversity of California; it's crucial to our success. It's a lofty goal, but we shouldn't settle for anything less.

How does UC Berkeley compete with big-budget private schools for the brightest students?

I really believe that Berkeley is the world's best university, and the rankings bear this out. We're absolutely competitive on quality of education. And we're absolutely competitive with respect to where our graduates end up-although we could certainly do a better job advertising that fact.

One place we need to work harder is in providing privately funded undergraduate scholarships. This is such an important investment. For one thing, because it helps deserving students attain a Berkeley education. But also because attracting top students has everything to do with retaining amazing faculty. There are a lot of professors on this campus who could make more money somewhere else, but who teach at Berkeley because they're inspired by our incredible student body.

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