Biden picks Kean University VP

President Biden has nominated Barbara George Johnson, vice president of external affairs and urban policy and research at Kean University, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. 

Johnson will replace Maria E. Rengifo-Ruess, a former Lockheed Martin executive whose term expired, if she is confirmed by the Senate for the term that will expire on February 4, 2026.

The nomination affirms Kean’s commitment to research as the university pursues a Carnegie R2 research designation.

The foundation, established by Congress in 1986 to honor the late U.S. Senator and statesman Barry Goldwater, provides scholarships to college sophomores and juniors to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

From an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1256 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 438 academic institutions, Goldwater scholarships were awarded to 409 college students from across the United States for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“I am excited and honored to be named to this prestigious national board in higher education,” Johnson said. “Particularly within the STEM fields, it’s important to ensure that we are supporting young scholars from all walks of life and offering opportunities that expand innovation in our country through their experiences, vision and research.”

Johnson has more than 30 years of experience as a public policy professional in New Jersey and has shaped economic, health and social policy in the state.

At the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy, she oversees the work and mission of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association, a one-of-a-kind organization of 32 urban mayors engaged in collective policymaking. The institute focuses on urban environmental policy, public health policy, early childhood policy, and instruction in leadership development and civic engagement. 

“Barbara George Johnson’s nomination to the Goldwater Foundation puts Kean on the national stage as the University works toward its goal of becoming a Carnegie R2 research institution,” said Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D. “The foundation’s board will benefit from Barbara’s experience and expertise and her focus on bringing equity into the STEM fields so that the U.S. can continue to bring innovation to the world.” 

Johnson has an extensive background in health care, public health and public policy. Early in her career, she spearheaded the development of the Newark Kids Initiative for the Newark Health Department, which focused on healthcare and social services for children impacted by domestic violence. She also served on the CDC-funded Newark Prevention Marketing Initiative and other task forces on HIV/AIDS.  

Her healthcare experience includes having served as a public health advisor for the Maternal Child Health Division of the New York City Department of Health and later as the director for the Family Life Institute of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey. She was also legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

“Barbara George Johnson’s breadth of experience in public policy, research and higher education brings a unique perspective to the Goldwater Foundation’s work,” said Joseph Youngblood, Ph.D., Kean senior vice president for external affairs. “She has a keen understanding of issues facing people who live in the nation’s urban communities and ways to address inequities through policy and action.”

Johnson earned a Bachelor of Arts in biology and technology from Cornell University, a Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and a law degree from Rutgers-Newark Law School. She is a proud member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

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