Ruth Johnston, new vice chancellor for administration and planning

Ruth JohnstonBy Douglas Esser
You can see how Ruth Johnston manages when you see the inside of her office door covered in red, orange, yellow, blue and purple sticky notes. It’s not random. It’s a kanban organization layout: ideas, things she’s doing, things others are doing, things in progress, things to worry about and things that are done.

A number of projects are visible at a single glance. 

“I review that on regular basis and move things along,” she says, adding it’s satisfying when one moves off the board.

Johnston has a lot to manage as the new vice chancellor for administration and planning. One of three vice chancellors for Chancellor Wolf Yeigh, her responsibilities cover the day-to-day operations of the campus: financial, facilities and human resources.

Johnston moved to UW Bothell on an interim basis in September from the Seattle campus where she was associate vice president and chief of staff, planning and management. She filled in after the departure of Ana Karaman. With the recommendation of a search committee and input from the campus community, Johnston was formally appointed in December. She takes over officially Wednesday in the position known as VCAP.

Ruth JohnstonJohnston brings 36 years of experience in college administration. One of her jobs at the University of Washington has been a system wide responsibility for sustainability. She’ll continue to connect faculty, staff and students around a “triple bottom line” sustainability with social justice, environmental and economic components. 

(Photos by Marc Studer)

“Sustainability really matters to me and I know it really matters a lot here too,” Johnston says.

Sustainability is one of the priorities Yeigh announced for this academic year.

Another initiative she intends to continue is doing business with small, women and minority-owned businesses. And with a doctorate in organization development and higher education, she’s always looking at how to make systems more effective – process improvement, creating efficient processes and project and visual management tools.

Becoming more familiar with the Bothell campus, Johnston has witnessed the noisy, sky-darkening crows gathering to roost in the wetland. “It’s so amazing.” And they didn’t scare her off. She plans to stay until she retires some years in the future.

“I’m excited to bring my experience and passion for the University of Washington Bothell and become part of a leadership team and administration committed to helping students succeed, make an impact on the region and our community, and be a great place for faculty and staff to work, learn and engage,” she says.