(5Q)uestions

Name: Dr. Lisa Johnson
Occupation:
 Professor and Director, USC Upstate Center for Women's and Gender Studies

Biography: 
Through strategic community partnerships centered on programs for adolescent girls of color, Dr. Johnson has coordinated numerous health disparities-driven initiatives in Spartanburg, including the CDC evidence-based curricular program, SiHLE (2007-2009), as well as a service-learning course that produces WGS-trained troop leaders for several outreach troops among under-served populations with the Girl Scouts of South Carolina—Mountains to Midlands (2012-present), merging the Girl Scouts curriculum with core tenets of Black Girlhood Studies. Additionally, drawing on her work in feminist disability studies, she has offered workshops and presentations on mental health and attachment disorders among adolescent girls. Most recently, with the co-leadership of Dr. Emily Kofoed, Dr. Johnson coordinated a Spartanburg County LGBTQ Needs Assessment survey project, measuring needs and resources in the sectors of health/medicine, business, and education.

Who—Who makes you question the world around you?
I am by nature a questioner, so it doesn’t take much to prompt me toward reflection, analysis, problem-solving, and community-building. I have found a meaningful intellectual home in feminist epistemology because it gives me the tools to ask questions about questions, to analyze how we come to know what we know, and to value lived experience, especially from socially marginalized groups (for example, women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and disabled people). More simply, my two-year-old daughter has offered a new lens that prompts me to see the world in fresh ways and to ask new questions on her behalf.

What –What piece of advice has been the most valuable to you so far?
Be compassionate. Be generous. Be kind. Both to yourself and to others.

When---When do you do your best work?
Early mornings, while it’s still dark out, I can think clearly and bring a fresh mind to the writing page. I also tend to have creative breakthroughs when I’m walking the dogs in my neighborhood. I never underestimate the power of stepping away from the desk to find a bright idea.

Where---Where are you most likely to be inspired?
My reading chair is my place of inspiration. Books have always been my entertainment, my consolation, and my portal to the imagination. If I am not reading regularly, my own writing projects tend to stall.

Why—Why does diversity matter to you?
To end where I began, my questioning nature makes me pause at this question. Certainly, there is value and wonder in the broad diversity of people, cultures, animals, and plants living on this planet. If, by diversity, we mean having lots of different kinds of people involved in our
institution at every level, I value that as well. Yet my focus as a Director and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies is less about “diversity” and more about social inequalities. I am committed to working for a more just world. On this campus, that means developing courses
and programming that reflect the experiences of historically disadvantaged groups among our faculty and student body—to bring them, as bell hooks famously phrased it, “from margin to center.”

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