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Fall 2006 • Volume 12, Issue 4

A new cycle in Bradley leadership

by Nancy Ridgeway

Dr. Peter B. Johnsen

Dr. Peter B. Johnsen, provost and vice president for academic affairs

Dr. Peter Johnsen is ready for a new adventure. He has climbed to the highest point in each of the 50 states. He has taken the “ultimate” motorcycle ride, from the northernmost point of the U.S. in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to the southernmost point in Key West, Florida. His biology background has placed him in university settings and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as in unique opportunities such as working with the production crew for the former television show, Wild Kingdom.

As director of the USDA National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research since 1994, Johnsen has worked with Bradley and the community-wide Peoria NEXT initiative to capitalize on local resources in the areas of research, health, and creativity. Now, he has accepted a position as Bradley’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, the University’s chief academic officer.

“Bradley’s basketball appearance in the NCAA’s Sweet 16 is a metaphor for the University. We are ascending from regional to national recognition,” says Johnsen, who came on board as provost on July 1. “Bradley has completed a strategic plan that focuses on a culture of excellence in learning, application of knowledge, and collaborative partnerships with a global perspective. This is a perfect time to get on the Bradley rocket. I want to serve the University on that upward trajectory.”

Johnsen’s lifelong focus on goal-setting, both at the personal and professional levels, will be valuable as the University begins to implement its strategic plan. “I’ve always believed in setting ambitious goals. Choosing a goal, planning, adapting, and perservering—I think these will be useful qualities here at Bradley.”

He explains his personal interests and career achievements are connected in another way. “My hobbies often required teamwork to succeed, whether mountain climbing or research. Even though I did the ultimate motorcycle ride ‘alone,’ I met and rode with tremendous people along the way,” adds Johnsen as he talks about the camaraderie and assistance shared among cyclists.

Dr. Johnsen with motorcycle

Johnsen’s three primary goals are to maintain a culture of excellence in the educational experience; to promote the special emphasis on faculty-student collaboration in creativity, scholarship, and research endeavors; and to promote student leadership development.

He adds, “Bradley can distinguish itself with this emphasis on leadership. Our nation, our communities, organizations, and businesses all require effective leadership to thrive.”

Johnsen believes principled, ethical leadership is what distinguishes those who achieve excellence and make the future better as a result of their actions. “With the Lewis J. Burger Center for Leadership and the new leadership minor, Bradley has a unique opportunity to provide our students with the background and experience necessary to be principled leaders.”

Johnsen emphasizes that, above all, a university must serve students. “It’s all about enhancing the knowledge and well-being of the students. Whenever someone comes up with an idea, my first question is, ‘How does this benefit the student?’”

As he meets with deans and learns more about the University’s activities, he comments, “I have a genuine appreciation for the faculty and their role with students. I understand their challenges, rewards, ambitions, and their dedication to the students. Serving students is what makes a great faculty and a great university.”