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Office of the President

Michelle Johnston headshot

Michelle R. Johnston, Ph.D., was named president of Georgia Southwestern State University, effective June 1, 2024. She is the first female president in GSW history.

Johnston previously served as president of the College of Coastal Georgia from July 2018 to May 2024. Prior to joining Coastal Georgia, Johnston spent more than 25 years in higher education administration, including as president of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College in Ohio.

In 2014, Dr. Johnston was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Defense to the Marine Corps University Board, where she served as the chair. She has served on the boards of the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Georgia, Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber, Coastal Georgia Historical Society and the Coastal Symphony of Georgia.

Johnston has been a leader at state and national levels on campus sexual assault response and prevention, including invitations by the Obama and Trump administrations for meetings at the White House and with the U.S. Secretary of Education. She is active as a presenter and spokesperson in local, state, regional, national and international settings.

Johnston holds a bachelor's degree in piano performance from the University of Alabama, a master's degree in piano performance from Louisiana State University, a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Mississippi State University and a post-doctorate in marketing and management from the University of Florida.


Office of the President

Terry Thorpe
Executive Assistant to the President


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