Chad Johnson joins Northwestern as Chief Information Officer

Rob Karwath | December 16, 2015

For someone who has made his career in information technology, Chad Johnson has an interesting line on his resume: Filmmaker.

Chad Johnson CIO

It’s one of several connections with the creative world that Johnson, the new Chief Information Officer at Northwestern Health Sciences University, has made throughout his life and professional work. It reflects his belief that the world is not divided into creative and logical halves. In fact, he maintains, both disciplines work better together and can achieve new heights when they collaborate.

“I’ve always had a passion for the liberal arts—and that’s still my passion,” says Johnson, who worked on film and television development after college. “Film, movies, film history. I’m still interested in all of those. The connection with IT is clear for me. I see technology as a way to help make the creative process better—and in some cases make it possible. ”

The melding of creative and technical thinking has been a constant for Johnson throughout his career in higher education IT. It’s a connection he now brings to Northwestern.

“My goal is to build IT as one of the resources of the entire university,” he says. “It’s more than just infrastructure. With online education and all of the opportunities out there to expand access to learning, IT has an important role in all of it.”

Johnson’s track record is exactly that. At William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, where he led the Information Technology Department, Johnson helped educators expand online access to legal education, including assisting in creation of an innovative hybrid program in which students did half of their coursework online.

At St. Paul College, where he served as Director of Technical Services, Johnson helped make IT part of the school’s longstanding mission of bringing education to students who might not otherwise have had access to a college degree, including many from first-generation immigrant families.

At the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he worked as Assistant Technology Director in the College of Liberal Arts, Johnson led several IT advances that enhanced student learning inside and outside of the classroom.

Now at Northwestern, Johnson sees similar opportunities to use IT as a means to an end—not just an end in itself—for students, faculty and staff. He also views technology as an important connection between Northwestern and the community.

“I believe in the mission of the school to help people—to go out and help people get better, to help them live healthy and to serve the community,” he says. “It goes along with what I want to do. I want to be at a place like this that makes a difference.”

Throughout his career, Johnson has gravitated to colleges and universities on the move. That was part of the attraction for him in coming to Northwestern.

“It’s a place with a lot of history but a place that is building up—reimagining what it can be and what it will be,” he says. “It’s an exciting place and an exciting time. I want to help Northwestern be the best it can be.”

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