President Ronald Johnson to BIZ Viewers: CAU Is ‘Moving to Leading Edge of Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship'


CAU President Ronald A. Johnson’s appearance on Atlanta Business Chronicle’s BIZ on Sunday, June 17, provided viewers a glimpse into his vision for the future of the university, as well as a look into his past and how education shaped his development as an individual and professional. 

“One of the things that attracted me to higher education was me,” said President Johnson. "I'm a person who is first-generation in college, who comes from a family of modest income, so every school that I've been involved with either teaching or an administrative role has that characteristic. That's what actually drives me, because I know what education's done for me.

“CAU is an institution that was founded from the beginning as a place for upward mobility – and remember that’s me, that’s why it was attractive to me,” he said.

Clark Atlanta University was created in 1988 when historic Atlanta University and Clark College consolidated. With a combined 300-year legacy of academic excellence and civic activism from its parent institutions, today, CAU is focused on “lifting every voice and igniting new ideas” so that its graduates are emboldened to change the world.

When BIZ interviewer, Atlanta Business Chronicle publisher David Rubinger, asked President Johnson about the role of historically black colleges and universities, he commented on the transformative power these institutions have on the future of their predominately African-American student population. 

“One of the roles of HBCUs is to take people who are largely from underserved communities and help them in their transformation to becoming a full-fledge citizen and also a person who is on a trajectory with respect to their career,” he said.

“We are very, very intentional about the experience that our students get and where they ultimately head when they leave from the institution.”

Johnson also spoke about CAU’s role in the historic West End, home of the university, as well as the other institutions that comprise the Atlanta University Center Consortium. The center was and continues to be the centerpiece of the area, he said.

“Now as the larger community has discovered the west side, it’s important that a dialog be engaged in that talks about four things: live, work, play and create,” said Johnson. “There’s very, very little discussion about the create side, and there’s not that much in terms of the work side either. Clark Atlanta University is ready to fill the gap in terms of the work side and create side so that the west side actually has its own dynamic and an engine of economic determination that is sitting right there.”

President Johnson went on to list three immediate goals for the University: exposing the University’s Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development as a “jewel” to the world; developing the University’s financial tech and cyber security initiative; and trumpeting the success of the University’s mass media arts department.

“Before there was Turner and CNN, there was Clark in terms of mass [media arts]. We want to be more obvious in terms of the dynamics of that entire entity called entertainment, T.V. and movie production. We want to take advantage of the reality that we have produced a number of people in the industry.” 

As Clark Atlanta University embarks on a yearlong celebration of its 30th anniversary, the BIZ interview is one of the first stops in a series of events (including a national city tour of alumni hubs) where President Johnson will share his vision of the university as a powerhouse that provides students with an education that prepares them for today’s marketplace. 

“We are moving to the leading edge where technology, innovation and entrepreneurship are found,” he said.