Willamette MBA professor recognized by Aspen Institute

by University Communications,



When Tim Johnson developed “Politics & Public Policy for Managers” at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, he feared people would think his course was extraneous.

Instead, it helped him become a finalist in the Aspen Institute’s 2014 Faculty Pioneer Awards program.

Dubbed the “Oscars of the business school world” by The Financial Times, the recognition celebrates the accomplishments of business school instructors from around the globe.

According to the institute, each of this year’s eight recipients demonstrates leadership and risk taking by connecting social, environmental and ethical issues into the MBA curriculum.

“I view this award as evidence that the Atkinson School and its students are forward looking and path breaking,” says Johnson, an assistant professor of public management and public policy.

“It is a testament to the foresight and intellectual bravery of my students and colleagues. To me, this award is as much theirs as it is mine.”

Innovative Curriculum

Johnson’s course, “Politics & Public Policy for Managers,” examines the impact of customs, policies, laws and regulations at organizational, governmental and societal levels.

“The school and its students recognize that managers, by strategically engaging with the realm of politics and public policy, can discover new ways to create value for the communities they serve,” Johnson says. “Without my colleagues’ and students’ belief in the importance of the subject matter, my course would never succeed.”

Grateful for his teachings, Jon Bednarski MBA ’14 says Johnson has an unwavering positive attitude and a passion for public policy. He’s consistent in his approach, and he always encourages students to share their thoughts.

“Public policy, in general, is a pretty daunting subject, but after his class, you certainly have a better appreciation for how anything at all gets done in our current state of government affairs,” says Bednarski, who works for a Democratic assemblywoman in Las Vegas.

“I felt like no matter what kind of day you were having, you couldn’t help but leave Tim’s class without it turning for the better, even just a little bit. He was always very charismatic, energetic and full of life. ”

Katt Porras MBA ’15 agrees. Describing Johnson as one of AGSM’s best professors, she says he has a way of making his teachings clear and relatable to his students.

“He prepares and stays current in global news so that he’s able to engage the entire class,” she says. “He finds the commonalities and highlights our global interconnection.”

Preparing Students to Succeed

Dean Debra Ringold believes Johnson’s teachings are valuable for students entering the marketplace. In a letter she wrote to the Aspen Institute’s judging committee, she said his courses equip MBA students with the tools to understand, navigate and shape political and public policy.

“Tim’s courses advance the Atkinson School’s mission of promoting skillful management in business, government and not-for-profit organizations,” she said. “They convince students that success in the private sector requires meaningful engagement with the public sector.”

Since joining the Atkinson faculty in 2011, Johnson has developed several courses that train managers how to use politics and public policy to advance the missions of their enterprises.

In 2013, he was awarded Willamette University’s Jerry E. Hudson Award for Excellence in Teaching.