Antonia Johnson

December 11, 2019

Earning an Ed.D. degree was an important step in Antonia Johnson’s journey as a lifelong educator, a path she began as an undergraduate at UNCW in 1990.
“As a child, I didn’t expect to earn a doctorate,” said Johnson. “As a first-generation college student, I didn’t even know that was a possibility until I became an adult. I can only imagine how this accomplishment will shape my future. My dreams and goals have expanded more than I could have imagined when I started this journey.”
Her experience as a first-generation college student was the inspiration behind her dissertation topic, “From Access to Success: Factors that Impact First-Generation College Student Academic Success and Persistence.” Johnson’s dissertation examines what helps first-generation students to be successful and earn a college degree.
“When I started my dissertation four years ago, I was a part of an organization that helped to support the development of early college high schools,” she said. “I became very passionate about that work. I want to see students like the young person I was have every opportunity for success and realize their dreams.”
Johnson obtained a bachelor’s degree in English with a teacher certification, and later a master’s degree in school administration. The university provided her a small, family-like atmosphere that she needed to feel comfortable and successful during her undergraduate studies, Johnson said.

“The friendly community and organizations I was a part of, like the UNCW gospel choir, made me feel like a part of the UNCW community fairly quickly,” she recalled.
Johnson juggled her Ed.D. program and job as the executive director of elementary education for Brunswick County Schools. She is now looking forward to focusing on a few personal goals, including seeing the world.

“I have so many professional goals that I often overlook a personal life – so, my personal goal is to travel more,” she added. “Italy is at the top of my dream destination list right now.” She said she also dreams of becoming a published author.
Associate professor Marsha Carr, chair of the Department of Educational Leadership in the Watson College of Education, has been her biggest cheerleader on campus, Johnson said. She expects other supporters to attend commencement to celebrate her achievement.
“My whole family is tickled about this,” Johnson continued. “I’m just floored that I’m at this point, and so happy.”
-- Venita Jenkins