Dr. Tonja Johnson
Vice President for Communications and Marketing
Tonjanita (Tonja) L. Johnson assumed the role of University of Tennessee vice president for communications and marketing June 24, 2013. In this capacity, she has responsibility for overall communications, research-based messaging, marketing, and branding activity for the UT System. Prior to her appointment with the University of Tennessee, Johnson served for three years as chief deputy to the president at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she also held a faculty appointment in the Stony Brook University School of Professional Development, teaching higher education leadership.
From 2008-2010, Johnson served as associate vice president for marketing and communications at Middle Tennessee State University. While there, she also assisted the university president with executive communications and was a member of the faculty in the MTSU College of Mass Communication, teaching public relations. From 2001 to 2008, Johnson served in a series of progressively more responsible positions at Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, where she also served as a faculty member. A year after joining MVSU as director of public relations, Johnson was promoted to chief of staff and executive assistant to the president, a post she held for five years. She concluded her service there as executive assistant to the president and associate vice president for university relations. Her career began in 1991 as a newspaper reporter for The Decatur Daily in Decatur, Ala. She was on the communication staff of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa from 1993 to 1996, and worked as a graphic designer, copy editor, freelance writer and communication consultant from 1996 to 2001 in New Orleans.
Johnson began her college career at the University of Alabama in the summer of 1987 as a New York Times Scholar. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UA in mass communication in 1991 and 1996, respectively. She also earned a Ph.D. in 2006 in urban higher education from Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., where she served as an Ayers Fellow in the Jake Ayers Institute for Urban Research. In 2008, she completed the Institute for Education Management at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Johnson, who maintains and active speaking and presentation schedule on topics related to her profession, is currently serving a three-year term as a Commissioner on the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s (CASE) Commission for Communications and Marketing and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Historic Tennessee Theatre.
A native of Butler, Alabama, Tonja and her husband, Tony, live in Knoxville with their daughter, T’Anna Gabrielle; orange tabby cat, Matlock; and Portuguese waterdog, Tess.