As a student at Buena Vista High School, Rollin Johnson, 2009, M.B.A., set his sights on the world outside mid-Michigan. His travels and experiences after graduation took him halfway around the world, then back to his hometown, and most recently on to Baltimore Md., where he serves as director of the Center for Social Concern at Johns Hopkins University.
After graduating from college, Rollin joined the U.S. Peace Corps in 2003, serving first in Nepal, then in Burkina Faso through 2005. Those eye opening and mind-broadening experiences helped Rollin realize that he wanted to continue working for a greater good and that furthering his education would help him do so more effectively.
“The Peace Corps helped me think about how to use my business acumen in a way I hadn’t considered, how to use it around public service.”
When he returned to the United States from Africa, Rollin joined the staff of a small college in Iowa, where he promoted volunteerism and the Peace Corps.
“My experiences internationally with the Peace Corps created a really strong sense of connection with people and with organizations. That helped shape who I am.”
Rollin is a man committed to bringing public service to the forefront, and effecting meaningful change in a city [Baltimore] facing many social challenges. SVSU’s M.B.A. program, he said, helped prepare him for this work.
Going global . . . close to home
Rollin said when he decided to pursue his Master of Business Administration, SVSU was on his list of possible universities.
“Being from the area, I knew about SVSU,” Rollin said. “When I looked into the M.B.A. program, I was attracted to the curriculum; the global emphasis of the program was very interesting to me.
“I also liked the size of the program,” Rollin added. “I knew I’d have access to my professors.”
For Rollin, SVSU offered global reach in a close-knit community. “SVSU has a really friendly atmosphere,” Rollin said. “And the M.B.A.’s international emphasis was really exciting. Connections with people from around the globe opened up this cool space for me to learn from my colleagues. I liked being able to sit with someone from halfway across the world and work together to build rapport and friendships. I’m still in touch with some of those people.”
While working on his M.B.A., Rollin served as a graduate research assistant for the Entrepreneurship Institute at SVSU.
“I worked with Harry Leaver [executive director] and the team at the Center for Business and Economic Development, and with Ken Kousky [at the time, SVSU’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence],” Rollin said. “That helped me sharpen some of the ‘soft’ skills, learning how to work with people around mutual gain and goal. And the opportunity to address some real world problems provided great experience.”
That experience, and other strategies and skills Rollin learned and honed at SVSU, has helped him meet the challenges of his job.
“My work at the Center for Social Concern [Johns Hopkins University] provides new challenges,” Rollin said. “We have change agents out in the city and the community, working to pull together the optimal courses of action for a lot of different interests. Identifying the right route to prime results is challenging. SVSU prepared me by sharpening my technical skills and developing my ability to think critically.
“At SVSU, I learned the importance of plugging in and connecting,” Rollin said. “If I have any advice, it’s ‘get involved.’”