Academics: Faculty

Johnnella Butler, Ed.D.

Johnnella E. Butler served as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Spelman College from 2005-2014. In 2015, she will continue her scholarship and teaching as a professor of women's studies.

Prior to Spelman, Dr. Butler held appointments at the University of Washington, Seattle as professor of American Ethnic Studies with appointments in English and Women’s Studies, and associate dean and associate provost of the graduate school, where she established an award-winning program. At UW, she prepared 25 Ph.D. students in African-American and American Ethnic Literary Studies. Prior to UW, Dr. Butler taught early in her career at Towson State and was the first Black woman to be tenured at Smith College. 

At Spelman, Dr. Butler has reorganized and brought greater stability to Academic Affairs. Among her accomplishments at Spelman, she has initiated and oversees several major general education projects — the development of the Spelman MILE (My Integrated Learning Experience), the Undergraduate Research Project, and is implementing these and other strategic initiatives, including Spelman, Going Global! the expansion of global education at Spelman as part of the undergraduate experience, including the undergraduate research experience. In 2008, she established the Teaching Research and Resource Center at Spelman.

Dr. Butler has been awarded major faculty and curriculum development grants — totaling $2.1 million — from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, The Ford Foundation (a four-year, statewide grant) in Washington State,  the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, addressing the liberal arts curriculum; American Studies; multicultural pedagogy; and interdisciplinarity and liberal education.  Dr. Butler’s scholarship spans pedagogy, ethnic studies and African-American literary theory, focusing on identity, experience and interdisciplinarity, relationships among democracy, diversity, and civic engagement in liberal education, and institutional change.

She has delivered numerous addresses and conducted more than 80 workshops at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. on interdisciplinarity and inclusivity and has lectured abroad in France, England and Spain. Her most recent publication, “Two Steps Forward, One Step Backward: Must this Be the Future of Diversity?” appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Liberal Education. Dr. Butler is particularly focused on liberal education for the 21st century and the necessary but not developed synergy between STEM disciplines and liberal education. A work in progress is her fourth book, Diversity, the First Liberal Art.

Dr. Butler has been honored with the Carruthers Visiting Lectureship in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico and was named Distinguished Alumna at the College of Our Lady of the Elms. The University of Washington has recognized her with numerous awards, including the Liberal Arts Professorship and Dean’s Recognition Award, the Ethnic Studies Student Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Ethnic Studies Recognition and Achievement Award, the UW Multicultural Alumni Partnership Distinguished Community Service Award.

Her program at the UW was recognized by the Council of Graduate Schools’ Peterson Award for excellence in promoting graduate diversity, and she is a recipient of the Charles Irby Distinguished Service Award by the National Association for Ethnic Studies. She has served on the Board of Liberal Education, and serves on the Aspen Wye Seminars Advisory Board.

A member of the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2009, she is a former trustee of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta; a member of the Executive Council of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, a policy advisory panel (2009-2013); serves on the Higher Education Resources Services faculty and the Executive Leadership Academy faculty; and was recently appointed to the Advisory Board of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education and the Board of Directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

  • Apply Now