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Portrait of Shannon Johnson

Shannon Johnson: Mastodon Memories

This summer series explores the campus experiences of current PFW faculty and staff who are also alumni.

By Blake Sebring

June 29, 2023

Shannon Johnson, B.A. ’04

The library director at Helmke Library, Johnson graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in women’s studies. In 2006, she earned her master’s degree in library science at IUPUI. Johnson started working at Helmke in August 2000 as a student employee, a trek that included becoming a staff member after she graduated, and a tenure track faculty member in 2009. She’s also director of library academic services, collection development, and liaison to PFW’s College of Science.

Where are you from and why did you choose to go to school here?

SJ: I was born in Fort Wayne, but I spent my entire childhood in Albion. I started here as a pre-med student. I absolutely hated the idea of the mandatory dorm situation that most universities have, and being crammed into one of those freshman dorms was my personal version of hell. I’m not the type of person who enjoyed that typical college party experience, so this was the campus for me. 

What car were you driving at the time? 

SJ: I had a 1990 Plymouth Sundance two-door coup. I adored that car. It was two-tone, blue on top, and silver on the bottom. It died on me about a year before I graduated, and then I had a ’97 Intrepid.

Why did you pick your major? 

SJ: I started out pre-med because I really loved genetics and I really wanted to be a doctor that focused on that. I kind of got stolen by history. I realized that I loved history, so I switched majors. Meanwhile, I had been working in the library this whole time, and it wasn’t until about a month before I graduated my undergrad that my brain clued in. “Hey, you really love the library.” Why don’t you do that? 

How did attending school here change your life? 

SJ: I’m the first person in my family to graduate with a four-year degree; first person to pursue any kind of master’s program. That’s earth-shattering, not just for me, but for my entire family. We always valued education, but having the opportunity to go to college and do something I loved, that was special. My father was so proud that he kept my graduation photo in his wallet until he died.

What kind of music were you listening to and who was your favorite artist or band?

SJ: I am old school, so my favorite band is The Beatles. I prefer classic rock over anything else, but while I was in school here, I was in a student organization that ran “Battle of the Bands.” We usually did it in the Classic Ballroom where we kept overloading the electrical system. We ran that for six years. 

What was your favorite area of research?

SJ: I have always been fascinated by social movements in history, post-World War II social justice, and history. I always loved science fiction, so as an undergrad I loved looking at how science fiction kind of chronicles through those eras and the social movements that were happening. 

Were you a member of any student organizations? 

SD: I helped found the history club at the time, and I helped found Campus Scouts, a co-ed Girl Scout venture group. I was also in Spiritual and Pagan Student Alliance, and a few others.

Did you have a favorite professor and why?

SD:  That would be Chris Erickson in history. She was amazing and the one who kind of lured me away from my pre-med degree. She was just a fantastic professor, and I was happy for her in her retirement but sad to see her gone. Great educator, great teacher, cares a lot about her students, and was able to make things interesting that other instructors had not over the years. She was one of the ones who really made it come alive. 

How has PFW changed for the better?

SD: We’ve grown so much. We’ve built new buildings since I was a student here. Our master’s options have radically increased. The student housing options, those opportunities. All of that has been really good.