School of Social Work assistant professor named an honoree on Michigan Chronicle’s ’40 under 40’ list

One of Wayne State University’s  own recently received an elite honor from the Michigan Chronicle. School of Social Work Assistant Professor and Director of Continuing Education, Shantalea Johns, was chosen from a large nominee pool of community, faith, government, and business leaders.

The Michigan Chronicle 40 Under 40 Awards recognizes local African American young professionals who inspire others through their vision, leadership, exceptional achievements, and participation in community service.

Shantalea Johns“Your inclusion in this prestigious list is a testament to your commitment to excellence and your impact in your respective field. You have demonstrated exceptional leadership skills, innovative thinking, and a passion for making a positive difference in your community,” read the award letter.

“I was humbled and honored to be recognized. This acknowledgement demonstrates the importance of promoting mental health awareness and accessibility in our communities. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the field of social work through teaching, community engagement, and continuing education,” Johns said.

Johns has held several positions at WSU over the years, including Academic Services Officer III, where she developed the university’s first-ever minor in Social Work and Social Justice. In 2020, she was promoted to Director of Continuing Education, overseeing a budget to create continuing education workshops and courses for healthcare professionals.

She’s received many awards and accolades, including being named an emerging leader in 2016 by the Global Community for Academic Advising Association (NACADA).

Johns served on their administrative research division, working with a team to train in research methods to student affairs professionals. In 2019, she co-chaired NACADA’s Region 5 Conference, which drew more than 500 attendees from five different states.

Some of Johns other honors include being inducted into WSU’s Academy of Teachers in 2023, and various other awards for teaching, leadership, and innovation.

Over the past 10 years, she’s delivered nearly 60 presentations on campus as well as at local, national, and international conferences, focused on student success and emotional well-being.

“I take great pride in being an active leader within my community. Serving as a Parks Commissioner for the city that I live in until the conclusion of my term in May 2021, I played a pivotal role in enhancing the quality of life for our city residents by actively contributing to the development of a local park, thus expanding community spaces and recreational opportunities. Moreover, I had the privilege of helping to organize community events fostering a sense of unity and enjoyment among the residents,” Johns said.

Her commitment to community involvement extends further as she currently holds an advisory board position with The Yunion, a youth support organization based in Detroit. In collaboration with The Yunion, Johns is engaged in various initiatives, including program evaluation, grant writing, and the facilitation of mental health education training/social media segment for parents throughout Detroit.

“Shantalea has been an integral part of supporting The Yunion's work. She is a nonprofit leader's dream…someone with a willingness to help with the skillset to back it up. Shantalea has helped us on countless projects, from establishing processes for evaluation and data collection and serving as an advisory council member, to leading mental health workshops and trainings. Her commitment to the youth and families that we serve is a rare gem,” said Nicole Wilson, Executive Director, The Yunion.

When the Michigan Chronicle published the list of ’40 Under 40’ honorees, Johns received tons of emails of congratulations from folks across Michigan, including SSW students.

Her future projects include serving as lead editor for a book titled “Social Justice Advising.”

“I’m eagerly anticipating collaborating with academic advisors from across the nation who will be making valuable contributions to this publication,” she said.

Johns said her family inspires her passion for improving the social work community.

“I aspire to leave behind a legacy centered on creating positive change and promoting well-being,” she said.

Johns is looking forward to attending Michigan Chronicle’s ’40 Under 40’ awards and induction ceremony next month. Read more about Johns and other nominees here.

Author: Laura Hipshire; Editor: Betsy Vanderstelt

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