Longtime Hudson Valley Resident, Mario Johnson M’91 Appointed as Upward Bound Director

Kenneth Guillaume '20
Johnson has made a permanent home at Marist College as the Director of the Upward Bound program, serving as the third program director in 55 years.

September 17, 2021—Mario Johnson, M’91 has spent his professional career ensuring that “diamond in the rough” students are afforded the opportunities they deserve, just like he was. On July 12, Johnson made a permanent home at Marist College as the Director of the Upward Bound program, serving as the third program director in 55 years. In this position, he will ensure local students are given the resources to excel academically.

A product of Beacon High School, Johnson has been a 30-year resident of Poughkeepsie, where throughout his career he has been mentoring economically disadvantaged students, leading him into political activism.

“People often don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care,” Johnson said.

Graduating from New School with a Master’s degree in Management and Urban Planning, Johnson decided to enter into the race for political office in the Hudson Valley. Johnson’s successful campaign for council/alderman for the City of Poughkeepsie Common Council gave him the platform to create new programs and legislation to benefit those with the most need. Winning by only seven votes, Johnson knew he could change his community from the inside and create growth in struggling parts of Poughkeepsie.

“Being in political office gave me an opportunity to serve on a number of different committees and organizations. And that's really where I started my career in community service. I realized quickly that the north side of the city of Poughkeepsie had many needs,” Johnson said.

Throughout his career in politics, Johnson was also able to serve as Vice-Mayor of Poughkeepsie, spearheading legislation to address hot button issues related to social injustice, economic development, and an increasing crime rate.

Johnson’s involvement in academics has always been the path that involved giving back and ensuring students are given the opportunities they deserve. As a former Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) student, Johnson continued his education at SUNY Oswego. This experience allowed Johnson to see what student support services are available for disadvantaged students, a knowledge he has taken throughout his career.

“The EOP program was able to get me onto a campus. From there, my career in higher education has always been trying to work with kids who are trying to work with students who, once like myself, are diamonds in the rough,” Johnson said.

Image of Mario Johnson

The start of his career in higher education began at Dutchess Community College, where he eventually moved into the role of Director of the Educational Opportunity Program. Johnson also worked as the Assistant Dean of Personnel Services at SUNY Westchester’s EOC Center and Director of Graduate and Admissions and Enrollment Management at the New School University throughout his career.

Johnson has a fond affinity to what he could learn and teach at Marist after earning his Master's in Public Administration. “I taught a number of courses, history, government, public administration, and then from there, I was able to teach in the Upward Bound program and taught in the Marist MPA graduate program,” Johnson said. “Marist also gave me a unique set of skills for my career. Day one on the city council, I was able to sit there, read a budget, know what to look for and how to move money, that was really important.”

Johnson has been involved in the Upward Bound Program at Marist multiple times since 2003. He now returns in an official capacity to help students understand the resources available to them at Marist. “Our goal would be giving the students a safe place to learn and have fun as kids, again, to really show there’s a brighter future out there. I'm hoping that Marist can help us do that,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s goal throughout his academic career was simple, he wants to make sure students know that someone out there cares and wants to see them succeed, and with his position at Marist, he can continue that goal of mentoring students from Poughkeepsie and Newburgh. “A lot of students, especially the ones that we work with, they just need some TLC. That's all it is,” Johnson said.

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