Colette Johnson

Cohort 2012–2013.  I completed my PhD in 2018 from Princeton’s English department, where I conducted original interdisciplinary research probing the rise of child psychology in the 20th-century. My career path into my current job was not linear, but included many experiences that informed my professional value and identity.

Prior to arriving at Princeton, my first job out of college was working with a team to launch a special education program for underserved youth in a low-income school district. This program focused on preparing high school graduates with special needs for their next step in life, whether that was a job or a transition to higher education. Through this experience, I developed expertise in community engagement, leadership, and diversity and inclusion. Furthermore, I became interested in developing deeper expertise in understanding the dynamics that transform policy and research into services for diverse stakeholders.

At Princeton, my research examined how changes in clinical and academic research filtered into public policy and broader societal norms. I studied how the origins of developmental psychology translated into educational policy, health policy, and international affairs. In addition to conducting original research, I gained experience bridging the gap between research and business operations through committee work that included providing consultative insights to the President and Board of Trustees on public relations, the operating budget, and stewardship of Princeton’s $23 billion endowment. At present I’m a member of the Princeton University Alumni Council Executive Committee, the Career and Networking Ad Hoc Committee, and the Princeton Center for Career Development Advisory Committee.

Throughout my career in research, I’ve maintained a strong interest in leveraging the skills I’ve developed through doctoral study to maintain strong ties with service-focused and mission-driven organizations and companies. From working with data through the Princeton Prosody Archive, to reviewing grant proposals for the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, to advising on marketing and communications for a solar and water engineering company, my background has allowed me to excel in providing strategic recommendations to business leaders.

Currently, I lead operations and business development for Ithaka S+R (Strategy and Research), a not-for-profit research and consulting firm. I collaborate with our senior leaders to oversee a portfolio of strategic initiatives and provide guidance to decentralized teams across ITHAKA’s four business lines by aligning priorities, communicating plans with key stakeholders, and analyzing future growth opportunities. Additionally, I helped to launch and co-edit a quarterly newsletter and started a robust internship program. Running the internship program has been an especially rewarding part of my role, and an opportunity to create another avenue that allows graduate students to apply their skills in a mission-driven environment supporting the public good.

I’m a strong advocate for the importance of the humanities in creating a balanced society. I’m always happy to mentor students as they are exploring their career opportunities.