#PROFspective: ESS Major, Athlete and Activist Ayanna Johnson

Today we speak with Ayanna Johnson, a junior Environmental & Sustainability Studies (ESS) major under the School of Earth and Environment. She comes from Ewing, NJ in Mercer County and is the captain of the Women’s Basketball Team. She also participates in We Are One Team, Social Justice Action, and OWL (Outstanding Women Leaders) Group.

Ayanna smiles and leans against a tree outside on campus.

Why did you choose ESS? 

When I was a senior, I went on a trip to the Bahamas and studied at the Island School. I focused on environmental science and marine biology. We saw the coral reefs that were dying and how the Bahamas is being disproportionately impacted by global warming. It made me feel that this is a really important field more people need to study. 

What has been your favorite ESS class?  

My favorite ESS class was called Earth, People, and The Environment taught by Professor Richard Federman. I learned about the interconnectedness of people and their environment. 

What do you want to do in the future? 

Every company needs an Environmental Sustainability Specialist to make sure they’re following the rules and regulations from like the EPA. I want to do that in the future. 

Do you have a mentor on-campus? 

My mentor is Mandy Jiang, the former assistant coach of the Women’s Basketball Team. She helps me with school, studying, basketball and basically anything! 

Can you tell me more about the We Are One Team panel that happened in October 2020?  

The We Are One Team panel was an opportunity for me to speak on my personal experiences and also listen to different people from diverse backgrounds speak on social justice issues. We also discussed how we’ve been working to improve our communities by helping people become more educated and understanding about issues that are going on in modern-day America.

I was able to connect with other people that cared about these issues and also wanted to learn more. I made good friends with people who are dedicated to making a difference and speaking out. We bounce ideas off of each other about how we can do more to get our message across.

Ayanna smiles while sitting and leaning on a bench on campus.

What’s it like being the captain of the basketball team? 

It’s not much different than being a regular player. Everyone on my team is so awesome, and we all work together. It’s more about the responsibility of leadership. It pushes me to be more confident when speaking up and in my ability to lead. I never really looked at myself as capable of this, but it’s forcing me to face my insecurities and just do it. 

What advice would you give to newer college students? 

Appreciate the moment and enjoy it. Don’t keep thinking about the next thing. You’re going to waste your whole life thinking about the next step. You have to be in the present and enjoy the current moment. Appreciate life when you are happy because it’s not going to always last. 

If you spend your whole time stressing and not experiencing college, you’re going to regret it. You’re not going to be in your 20s forever. 

Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself because it’s a hard time for everyone. We don’t validate our own emotions or acknowledge things that we’re feeling inside. Everybody should take time to look inside yourself. 

What social justice issues are you most passionate about? 

I’m most passionate about educating people. A lot of what perpetuates injustice is people being ignorant to it. People not understanding how the small things are actually big things which allow for injustice to continue. 

On your busiest day, what academic, non-academic and social responsibilities do you juggle? 

I have practice, academics and work. I also juggle about 15 credits per semester along with basketball. This gives athletes room to stay above the 12-credit minimum and drop a class if necessary. 

How do you balance all of it?

I’m actually not very good at balancing or time management. I try my best to get organized and refocus. I try to make sure that I’m taking care of myself first because I can get caught up with so many different things. I’m not going to be able to do my best like mentally and physically if I don’t take care of myself.

Like what you see?

LEARN MORE

Story by:
Marian Suganob, senior public relations and advertising double major

Photos by:
Joe Gentempo, senior art major

Facebook Comments
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons