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Bill Johnson Jr.
Bill Johnson Jr. teaches Introduction to Public Policy in the College of Liberal Arts.

Former Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson Jr. has a new perspective these days. Instead of leading a city, he’s heading a classroom.

Johnson joined RIT in January as a distinguished professor of public policy in the College of Liberal Arts, after serving three terms and 12 years in office. He began teaching in the spring quarter.

“Being around young people is a rejuvenating process,” Johnson says. “Just this early immersion has been stimulating for me.”

A civic leader with national stature in areas relating to urban issues, regionalism and education, Johnson uses real life policy issues of education, health care, public safety and criminal justice to make textbook concepts real for his students. He strives to heighten their awareness of the impact of public policy on their lives.

In the fall, Johnson will assume a joint professorship, having one foot in the public policy department and the other in the new urban studies program, which is slated for approval. Johnson will look at issues of policy that impact urban areas.

In addition, Johnson is seeking funding to support a project that will create a training institute for leadership of communities in transition. This will involve the analysis of successful programs he implemented in Rochester and the potential for their replication in other communities.

“I’ve always been susceptible to new ideas and approaches, and out of that have come numerous projects that have worked in Rochester,” he says.

Prior to his election as mayor in 1993, Johnson was president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Rochester for 21 years. In 1996-97, he held the Frederick H. Minett Professorship at RIT and taught a course on urban issues.

Johnson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Howard University, and taught for four years at Mott Community College in Flint, Mich.