‘We will change the world’: Candidate for fine arts dean speaks on campus culture and vision


Nithin Reddy Nagapur

Amy Johnson, assistant dean at the School of Architecture and Design at KU, speaks at a public forum held for candidates for fine arts dean.

To a room full of laughter, Amy Jonhson, a candidate for College of Fine Arts dean, shared a list of some of her favorite things: dogs, horses, elephants, design and Lucky Charms. 

Johnson, an assistant dean at the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Kansas, said she grew up in Wichita. 

“I’m really excited about the possibility of coming home,” Johnson said. “This town has changed so much since I’ve lived here. It’s really amazing.”

College of Fine Arts Dean Rodney Miller announced his retirement in the fall semester, and the dean search committee announced Johnson as one of four candidates for fine arts dean. On April 24, Amy Green Deines, another candidate for the position, visited Wichita State.

Johnson has served in leadership positions at the Lincoln School of Design in the United Kingdom as well as the School of Design at the University of Central Oklahoma, before taking her current role at KU. 

Johnson shared what every professional achievement of hers is based on: “MTXE,” meaning “mental toughness, extra effort.” 

“It is really the idea that you set the goal,” Johnson said. “You believe you can achieve the goal and you innovate around every single obstacle until you get to your goal.”

Johnson then spoke on her vision for Wichita State.

“I’ll give you the elevator pitch — world domination via collaborative creative excellence,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the “soul” of her vision is to create a place for people to get good at whatever it is they’re interested in and then be excellent at it anywhere in the world. 

Johnson said the second goal is to make Wichita a place to stay after students’ education. 

“I want to make this town so amazing that people understand they have something right here that they can’t get anywhere else in the world,” Johnson said. 

Johnson then spoke about student-centeredness and said there’s nothing more student-centered than creating “visible escalating excellence in your classroom.” 

Johnson added that helping students learn and gain confidence in their skills is rewarding. 

“That’s the ultimate goal is they run right at you, grab your hands and you just throw them over as high and as far as they can go,” Johnson said.

In regards to campus culture, Johnson said she wants to create a campus where students can come to find their people and feel connected. 

“Ultimately, what I really want is students to come here to change their lives, and by helping them do that, we will change the world.”

Johnson also brought up leveraging the Innovation Campus and bending it to the arts.

“I think we need to get our fingers in all the pies,” Johnson said. “You have your fingers in a lot of pies, I think everybody’s fingers need to be in everybody’s pies.” 

Johnson said, ultimately, partnership and engagement are about relationships, and building and maintaining them.

“This is about learning what you value,” Johnson said. “This is about helping you achieve your goal, and can we work together to make success.”

An attendee asked Johnson if, as a graphic designer, would she be able to treat all four fine arts schools equally.

Johnson said being a graphic designer aids the role because she’s learned the client and business side.

“It’s always a give and take,” Johnson said. “Graphic design very rarely occurs by yourself. It’s always a partnership with someone who’s out of discipline.”

Anthony Muscat, dean of engineering and chair for the dean search committee, asked how Johnson planned to do a good job.

Johnson said, to do that, it takes figuring out what everyone’s values are and how they overlap.

“Where are the connections between those values so that we can start to build some consensus, and we might all be able to help each other and move together,” Johnson said. 

Students, faculty and staff can fill out a survey about Johnson here. The survey closes on April 29.