The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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DRES director overcomes personal challenges to serve others

Jodi Johnson, CSUN director of disability resources and educational services, has been at CSUN for over 20 years now helping students with disabilities. Photo by Irene Nesbitt

Jodi Johnson had her life all mapped out after she graduated high school. She would apply to Cal State Northridge, enter as a pre-med student, and graduate with a bachelor of medical science degree. But an injury changed Johnson’s plans for good and took her in an unexpected direction.

Shortly after Johnson graduated high school in West Milton, Ohio and transferred to CSUN as a pre-med student she badly injured her knee in an accident.

“I had to have nine orthopedic surgeries and 15 surgeries total to reconstruct my knee,” said Johnson. “My injury resulted in me having a physical disability because I couldn’t walk.”

But Johnson didn’t let such an injury stop her from achieving her goals. She continued to attend CSUN and focus on her studies. She was later introduced to the CSUN Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) for knee therapy and found her passion there.

As a student involved with DRES, Johnson applied for a student assistant position within the resource center in 1984.

“In that position I got to meet intelligent students who were blind, in wheelchairs, and had learning disabilities,” she said.

Through this position she helped assist students with test appointments and computer training. Johnson’s consistent passion and dedication for these students would help her earn a clerical office position in the assistant technology department three years later.

“I didn’t have a lot of exposure to students who had various kinds of disabilities,” said Johnson. “But I had a natural comfort around these amazing students and I always loved helping them become their best.”

Johnson would continue to work  and excel in her clerical position before being promoted to administrative system analyst.

In 1987, DRES received a three-year grant from the California Department of Rehabilitation to establish a lab for disabled students who needed assistance with using computers. Johnson would find her calling at the lab where she worked.

“I enjoyed helping these students learn while working in the lab,” said Johnson. “I would teach them how to use the Morse code and show them how to use the new technology so it could help them succeed in their communication and studies.”

Johnson would train blind and deaf students with how to use the Morse code on the computers. The students in turn would learn to read, speak and more with the help of new technology.  Johnson said after working with these students, she knew she was destined to work with people with disabilities.

“I switched my major from pre-med to liberal arts,” Johnson said. “Once I started here (DRES), I knew this was what I wanted to do.”

In 1989 Johnson was further recognized for her accomplishments in her former positions and was promoted to an administrative system analyst, where she help further develop the Morse code for the blind/deaf students and oversaw budget goals.

In 1992 Johnson graduated with a B.A. in Liberal Arts (special education), and shortly thereafter received her M.A. in education. Two years later, Johnson was promoted to associate director of disability and educational services.  After years of continuous hard work, Johnson was promoted to director of disability resources and educational services in 2010. In this capacity, she currently oversees the honor society for people of disability, all student support services, workability, and disability training conferences.

Throughout her 20-plus years at CSUN, Johnson has continued to reach out and dedicate her professional life to students with disabilities.

“We (DRES) are here to make sure that we provide disability students with developmental opportunities and help them graduate,” Johnson said.