The DePauw interviews Professor Paul Johnson


With the start of another school year, first-years have been adjusting to the demands of their new university lives. However, they aren’t the only ones adjusting. Several new professors have joined our campus this semester.

Professor Paul Johnson, a new
Spanish professor

The DePauw sat down with one of these professors, the new Associate Professor of Modern Languages, Paul Johnson. Johnson graduated from DePauw in 2004.

The DePauw (TDP): First of all, are you excited to be back?

Paul Johnson (PJ): Yes, I am very excited. I was looking forward to getting back all summer, actually.

TDP: Have you been considering returning to DePauw for quite some time now, or did this just suddenly occur?

PJ: Well, when I was a student here, I didn’t ever think about coming back. I suppose that DePauw just somehow sucks you back in. However, I did have the opportunity to participate as an instructor in the summer Spanish immersion program, so I actually came back six different summers, staring back in 2007, which is when the program began.

TDP: Is it strange being back as a professor?

PJ: It is strange, but it keeps me mindful of my role and helps me maintain a critical distance and perspective on that role. But I also remain mindful of the fact that I was a student here, which I think allows me to relate to the current students in a way that I might not be able to elsewhere.

TDP: Has a lot changed?

PJ: Not so much. The GCPA used to be the PAC, and Public Safety moved. Other than that, not much has changed at all. Even some of my now colleagues were professors when I went here, and that’s part of the strangeness I have experienced in returning. But as I said before, summer Spanish immersion program allowed me to get back every now and again, so this wasn’t quite as abrupt as it could have been had I come back 10 years later without ever visiting.

TDP: Do you believe you have a realistic perspective of the students’ expectations having been a previous student?

PJ: I wouldn’t say that if only because I think it would be unfair of me to assume they are the same as what I had as a student here. Individual students have different expectations. My goal is to meet as many of those expectations as I can, but I also think that they have changed over the course of the last ten years, and - on the whole - the students at DePauw are probably better students than when I was here. So I am eager to see how that part has changed and how the student body, academics and extracurricular activities have changed.

TDP: What would you say was your best experience as a DePauw student?

PJ: My DePauw experience was positive in a variety of ways, but I would have to say – and not to detract from the DePauw experience – my best experience came from studying abroad in Barcelona.

TDP: Were you asked to come back or was it as a volunteer?

PJ: That program wasn’t around when I was a student here, but I was asked to come back to sort of get that program off the ground, if you will, because Bob Herschberger managed to get a donation from alumnus. The idea was that it was going to be immersion-based. I had just finished my Masters through Middlebury, which has an immersion model, so I had that experience and was called upon to bring that to the table.

TDP: So you’re here for a while then?

PJ: I’m here to stay. Hopefully. I know for a fact that I will be teaching a seminar for Spanish majors next semester.

TDP: And what are you looking forward to most?

PJ: I’m looking forward to a lot of things, but most of all being that student-centered interaction that I missed at my previous institution. Things like being able to get to know my students much better than I would have been able to do at a different institution or working with my students on that one-on-one capacity and on projects outside the classroom.