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Dr. Royel M. Johnson

Dr. Royel M. Johnson
Phone: 8148632655
Office Address:
405B Rackley Building
University Park, PA 16802
Campus: University Park


Assistant Professor of Education (Higher Education)
Research Associate, Center for the Study of Higher Education
Assistant Professor of African American Studies (by courtesy)


Education Policy Studies


Center for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE)


Higher Education


Dr. Royel M. Johnson is Assistant Professor of Higher Education within the Department of Education Policy Studies at The Pennsylvania State University (PSU), where he also holds an affiliate appointment in the Department of African American Studies and is Research Associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education.

As a scholar, Johnson engages in interdisciplinary research related to educational access, equity, and student success; and the intersections between race, education, and social policy. In his work, he employs qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methodological approaches and has an explicit  focus on racially minoritized, underserved, and system-impacted student populations across diverse educational contexts.

Some of his current scholarship, for instance, examines the socio-ecological factors that influence college success for youth impacted by foster care; policy- and practice-barriers to college enrollment for students with criminal records; and the role of institutional leaders in cultivating racially equitable campus environments. He has a published over 30 scholarly  publications that appear in a wide-range of outlets including high-impact, peer-reviewed journals such as Urban Education, Teachers College Record, Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, Journal of College Student Development, Journal of Negro Education, and the Professional School Counseling Journal, to name a few. 

Johnson is co-editor of three forthcoming books, Racial Equity on College Campuses: Connecting Research to Practice (SUNY Press), Enacting Student SuccessCritical and Alternative Perspectives for Practice (Jossey-Bass) and Creating New Possibilities for HBCUs with Research (Information Age Publishing). To date, he has secured over $265,000 in grants and contracts from state agencies, foundations, and other funders to to support his scholarship, and currently serves as an external evaluator for two large, federal grants funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences. In 2018, he received funding from the Spencer Foundation (along with Uju Anaya and Liliana Garces; Co-PIs) to host a national convening titled Envisioning Racial Equity on College Campuses: Bridging Research-to-Practice Gaps for Institutional Transformation. Work from this convening will be featured in his forthcoming book with SUNY Press.

Johnson is involved nationally, serving on several editorial boards for the Journal of Minority Achievement, Creativity, & Leadership (2019-)Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition (2016-18), and for the Journal of Education Politics and Economics, where he is Associate Editor (2019-2022). He is also actively involved in the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), American College Personnel Association (ACPA), and American Education Research Association (AERA). For instance, he is past program chair for the Research Focus on Black Education Special Interest Group (SIG) in AERA—the largest SIG in the association.

Drawing on his scholarly expertise and professional experiences in higher education, Johnson has consulted with a number of colleges and universities, and frequently speaks at conferences and leadership academies on issues related to equity-minded leadership, race-conscious student success practices, and college student engagement and sense of belonging, among other important topics, across a wide-range of disciplines and areas in higher education. He is also Co-PI (with Terrell Strayhorn) of the Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs (in partnership Diverse: Issues in Higher Education and ACPA- College Student Educators International) and Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges (in partnership with Diverse: Issues in Higher Education and NISOD) projects, which surveys and recognizes student affairs divisions and community colleges who exemplify strong commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

For his early career accomplishments, ACPA recently selected Johnson to receive their coveted Emerging Scholar Award, which he will receive at their 2020 conference in Nashville, TN. 

Johnson holds a B.A. in Political Science and Ed.M. in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs, with a cognate in Race and Social Policy from Ohio State. And is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. 

Office Hours

By Appointment Only

Representative Publications

  1. Johnson, R.M. (In Press). Environmental protective factors contributing to the academic resilience of emancipated Black male foster youth in college: Implications for school counselors. Professional School Counseling Journal
  2. Oseguera, L., Park, H, J., De Los Rios, M.J., Aparicio, E.*, & Johnson, R.M. (In Press). Examining the role of scientific identity in Black student retention in a STEM scholar program. Journal of Negro Education
  3. Johnson, R.M., Strayhorn, T.L., & Travers, C.S.* (2019). Exploring the academic advising experiences of Black males at an urban university: An exploratory case study. Urban Education. Advance online publication.
  4. Johnson, R.M. (2019). The state of research on undergraduate youth formerly in foster care: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of Diversity of Higher Education. Advance online publication.
  5. Johnson, R.M. & Strayhorn, T.L. (2019). Preparing youth in foster care for college through an early outreach program. Journal of College Student Development, 60(5), 612-616.
  6. Johnson, R.M. (2015). Measuring the influence of juvenile arrest on the odds of four-year college enrollment for Black males: An NLSY analysis. Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men, 4(1), 49-72.
  7. Strayhorn, T.L., & Johnson, R.M. (2014). Why are all the White students sitting together in college? Impact of Brown v. Board of Education on cross-racial interactions among Blacks and Whites. Journal of Negro Education, 83(3), 385-399.
  8. Strayhorn, T.L., & Johnson, R.M. (2014). Toward a model of professional identity: A preliminary study of Black men. The NASAP Journal, 15(2), 59-74.
  9. Strayhorn, T.L., & Johnson, R.M. (2014). Black female community college students’ satisfaction: A national regression analysis. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 38, 1-17.
  10. Johnson, R. M. (2013). Black and male on campus: An autoethnographic account. Journal of African American Men in Education,4(2), 25-45.
  11. Strayhorn, T.L., Johnson, R.M., & Barrett, B.A. (2013). Investigating the adjustment and transition experiences of formerly incarcerated African American males at PWIs. Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men, 2(1), 73-98.


  1. Dowd, A. & Johnson, R.M. (2020). Why do systematic review?: A reader’s and editor’s perspective. In Zawacki-Richter, O., Kerres, S.B., Bond, M., & Buntiens, K. Systematic reviews in educational research: Methodology, perspectives and application. (pp. 69-87). Wiesbaden, Germany: Springer, VS.
  2. Johnson, R.M. & Abreu, J.* (2020). Engaging justice-involved students in higher education. In Quaye, S.J., Harper, S.R., & Pendakur, S. (Eds.), Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Approaches for Diverse Populations 3rd Edition. (pp. 273-286). New York, NY: Routledge. 
  3. Wood, J. L., Hilton, A. A., & Johnson, R.M. (2013). The effect of self-efficacy on academic and social integration: An investigation of students of color in the community college. In T. Hicks (Ed.), College Student Self-Efficacy Research Studies. (pp. 3-26). Lanham, MD: University Press of America. Vasquez Urias, M., Johnson, R.M., & Wood, J. L. (2013). The effect of non-cognitive predictors on academic integration measures: A multinomial analysis of STEM students of color in the community college. In R. T. Palmer & J. L. Wood (Eds.), Community Colleges and STEM: Examining Underrepresented Racial and Ethnic Minorities. (pp. 75-90).  New York, NY: Routledge.


  1. Alvarado, R.* & Johnson, R.M (2019) [Review of the book Distrust and educational change, by K. Shultz]. Teachers College Record
  2. Kirk, C.* & Johnson, R.M. (2019) [Review of the book Undocumented and in college: Students and institutions in a climate of national hostility, by T. Jones & L. Nichols]. Journal of College Student Development.
  3. Johnson, R.M. (2013) [Review of book Black Men in College: Implications for HBCUs and Beyond ed.] Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men 1(2), 111-114. Indiana University Press. 


  1. Strayhorn, T.L. & Johnson, R.M. (2016). Work in progress—What underrepresented minority engineering majors learn from co-ops & internships. Proceedings of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) International Forum.


  1. Strayhorn, T.L., Johnson, R.M., Henderson, T.S, & Tillman-Kelly (2015). Beyond coming out: New insights about GLBQ students of color. Columbus, OH: Center for Higher Education Enterprise, The Ohio State University. 


2020-2022 | Johnson, R.M. (PI). The experiences of justice-involved students in college: A phenomenological study. Emerging Scholars    Award, American College Personnel Association: College Student Educators International. Awarded $3,000.

2018-2019 | Johnson, R.M. (PI) & Rosinger, K.O. (Co-PI). Improving education outcomes for justice-involved individuals: Toward a behavioral outreach campaign. Pennsylvania State University, Criminal Justice Research Center. University Park, PA. Awarded $4,500.

2018-2021 | Priya, S. (PI), Crane, R. (Co-PI), Troiler-McKinstry, S. (Co-PI), & Randall, C. (Co-PI). Penn State – American Ceramics Society – University of Kiel (PACK) International research experience fellowship. National Science Foundation, International Research Experiences for Students. (Role: Contributor, Senior Personnel – Research Scientist/Evaluator). Awarded $500,000.

2019-21 | Adelman, A.M. (PI), Richard, D.C., (Co-PI), & Johnson, R.M. (Co-PI). Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center Program. The United States Department of Health Resources and Administration. Awarded 720,000 (Continuation Grant).

2019-21 | Adelman, A.M. (PI), Richard, D.C. (Co-PI), & Johnson, R.M. (Co-PI). Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center Program. The Pennsylvania Department of Health. Awarded 1,230,000. (Continuation Grant). 

2018-2022 | Adelman, A. (PI). Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences, Health Resources and Services Administration (Awarded $3,778,617). The Pennsylvania Department of Health. University Park, PA. (Awarded $1,230,000). (Role: Research Scientist/External Evaluator). 

2018 | Johnson, R.M. (PI), Anya, U. (Co-PI), & Garces, L.M. (Co-PI). Envisioning racial equity on college campuses: Bridging research-to-practice gaps for institutional transformation. Spencer Foundation Conference Grants Program. Awarded $50,000.

2017 | Johnson, R.M. Improving postsecondary education outcomes for foster youth through cross-sector collaboration: A case study of Ohio Reach. Pennsylvania State University, College of Education, Research Initiation Grant. University Park, PA. Awarded $9,000

2015 | Strayhorn, T.L. (PI), & Johnson, R.M (Co-PI). The 3E’s framework of success: An intervention strategy for Black male urban youth. Franklin County Children Services. Columbus, OH. Awarded $194,659.92

2015 | Strayhorn, T.L. (PI), & Johnson, R.M. (Co-PI). Rural college student success study. iBelieve Foundation. Columbus, OH. Awarded $5,000

2014 | Johnson, R.M. Black male incarceration and anti-social behaviors. Criminal Justice Research Center, Graduate Student Summer Research Grant. Columbus, OH. Awarded $500.00