Dr. Karen Johnson, an MPA adjunct faculty member, was appointed as the Director of the Washington State Office of Equity on March 8, 2021. Created by the legislature last year and signed into law in April 2020, this office will “work with agencies to increase access to equitable opportunities in order to bridge opportunity gaps and reduce disparities. The office will also work with communities to develop the state’s five-year equity plan,” according to Governor Inslee’s appointment announcement.
The work that Dr. Johnson will be embarking on as the Director of the Office of Equity is very closely tied to the work that she has done as the Equity and Inclusion Administrator for the Department of Corrections. In that role, she aimed to “incorporate equity, diversity, inclusion and respect (EDI-R) into DOC policy and practices,” and served on the “statewide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council.”
Dr. Johnson’s extensive experience working on EDI-R in the public sector is reflected in the transformative courses she teaches in the MPA program, such as Check Your Bias at the Door. “I especially appreciate teaching this weekend course at Evergreen because our students, faculty, and staff create learning communities to explore and implement socially just, democratic public service,” she writes as she reflects on her experiences teaching at Evergreen. Dr. Johnson underscores the critical importance of this work as she states, “Everyone has bias. Some we are conscious of and some operate on an unconscious level. Both types shape our perceptions and judgments about people’s character, abilities and potential behavior.” For students in the MPA program, as public administrators, this course sets the foundation for recognizing and addressing hidden biases to create more fair and equitable public service.
“All of us are transformed by sharing this space together,” Dr. Johnson writes of her Check Your Bias at the Door course, and we are excited to see how Washington State will be transformed through the work of the Office of Equity with Dr. Johnson at the helm. Congratulations, Dr. Johnson!