Staff Feature: Herschel Johnson, Student Services Manager
A very warm welcome to Herschel Johnson, FSHN’s Manager of Student Services and advisor extraordinaire! Herschel grew up in Gainesville, attending P.K. Yonge School and spending his free time riding his bike around the UF campus. He has come full circle, dedicating his time to advising FSHN students as they navigate their academic journeys. Learn about his journey back to UF, his top tips for college students seeking academic success, and what he has in his refrigerator right now!
Tell me about your role in the FSHN department. What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I serve as the Manager of Student Services in support of our graduate and undergraduate students. Primary support includes communicating with students on appropriate course selections toward their majors, preparing for post-graduation goals such as additional academic pursuits or professional careers, and planning toward timely graduation.
Also, I support students through networking opportunities with industries and professional organizations. I share opportunities for students to get involved with campus organizations and events, and I provide referrals for academic and personal support services on campus. Overall, I serve as a go-to resource and cheerleader for some of the best students at the University of Florida.
How did you get into advising?
After college, I went into social work but quickly burned out from the strain of responsive counseling. As a result of this experience, I wanted to transition to the proactive development of young people. Through my own trials and tribulations as a college student, I had a confident understanding of academic and administrative systems. I soon began my first position in higher education as Admissions and Orientation Coordinator at Santa Fe College. Later, I transitioned to Academic Advising based on my desire to engage students in an ongoing developmental advising environment rather than have students just pass through my office during the admissions process.
What did you do before joining the FSHN department?
My journey started when I attended the University of West Florida in Pensacola on a cross country running scholarship and earned degrees in Psychology and Sociology. After graduation, I worked for a behavioral treatment facility and spent some time as a counselor for experiential learning in outdoor therapeutic camps for troubled teens prior to starting my career in higher education at Santa Fe College in November of 2000.
In between my time at Santa Fe College and arriving at UF, I worked as an academic adviser at a private business and technical university in Ohio, as well as the State College of Florida in the Bradenton, FL area. After joining the UF community, I worked as the advisor in the Biology Department under the supervision of the CALS Dean’s Office. Here, my background was especially helpful as UF and Santa Fe College have a transfer student relationship with a variety of outreach programs and events. This relationship highlights how friendly and engaging the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is with students and staff. And now, I am honored to be working in the FSHN department.
What is the best part of your job?
There is no greater reward than watching a student I work with over the course of several years grow and mature as they navigate the rigors of a University of Florida degree. No matter how small a part I played, I feel such a sense of pride to see students work through challenges and struggles, achieving their goals through hard work and dedication. It is a privilege to be involved in students’ journeys toward success. I am thrilled to watch graduates of our program in a professional environment, contributing to society in a positive manner. It always gives me a big smile!
What are your top three tips for college students looking for success?
(1) Take responsibility for your academic journey while keeping your eyes open for unexpected opportunities.
(2) Develop a personal network while building confidence in communication skills by engaging with peers, faculty, and advisers across campus throughout your academic career.
(3) Execute a productive time management schedule to focus on academic priorities, but don’t forget to include personal time for fun and relaxation. Aim for life/work balance.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy outdoor activities like canoeing, fishing and camping, as well as running … when motivated. I always like spending time with family, including my ten nieces and nephews. I don’t mind doing yard work, and I grow peppers and tomatoes in my garden–perfect for a delicious salsa! Watching Gator football is also exciting and reminds me of when my father attended the University of Florida.
If I opened your refrigerator right now, what would I find in it?
Veggies from the garden, condiments, and sauces. I enjoy cooking and grilling everything from portabella mushrooms and veggies, to ribs and whole chicken. For flavor, I like to add spices and sauces.
Note: Some images in this post were taken prior to national guidelines of face coverings and social distancing.