Published February 10, 2020 by Bowdoin News

Eileen Sylvan Johnson to Receive 2020 Alumni Award for Faculty and Staff

A colleague of Eileen Sylvan Johnson, lecturer and program manager in environmental studies, noted that her title does not adequately capture her impact, contributions, and commitments to the students, the College, the Brunswick community, and beyond.
Eileen Sylvan Johnson
Eileen Sylvan Johnson

Johnson has been described as the heart and soul of Bowdoin’s environmental studies program and a central figure for the academic and professional development of generations of students who have benefitted from her knowledge, guidance, and personal attention.

For her seemingly tireless dedication, the Alumni Council has chosen Johnson to receive the 2020 Alumni Service Award for Faculty and Staff, presented each year for service and devotion to Bowdoin, its students and alumni.

Since arriving at Bowdoin in 2001, Johnson has enriched the environmental studies curriculum with her expertise in GIS mapping and its practical applications in environmental conservation, prompting hundreds of students, alumni, and colleagues to underscore her impact on their work. One former student described Johnson as a “humble, dedicated, and tireless worker who pours her energy into guiding and empowering students. She is committed to education that is truly rooted in place and process, and this commitment has led to numerous student service-learning projects that actually leave a positive and lasting impact on the Brunswick community and wider watershed.”

Across campus, Johnson is known to faculty and staff as a leader, a great partner, and an eager collaborator, willingly offering time and energy to events and programs conducted jointly with other College offices, such as Career Exploration and Development, the Office of Student Fellowships and Research, and the McKeen Center for the Common Good. According to a faculty member from another department, Johnson does all of this “with dedication and a friendly spirit.”

Another faculty member noted that Johnson’s contributions extend beyond the Bowdoin campus. “Eileen is not only dedicated to her students in creative and inspiring ways,” they explained, “she also is impressive in her efforts to bring together the needs of the community with the best interests of her students.” These efforts have included helping to place dozens of students in fellowships with local and national environmental organizations—placements that benefit the students, the organizations, and the surrounding community. A representative of The Nature Conservancy praised the valuable contributions that Johnson and Bowdoin fellowship students made to several community-based water resource projects. One student who received such a fellowship called her role “transformational.” Another simply stated, “Dr. Eileen Johnson made me employable.”

Read about the other award recipients.