Sara Johnson, Ph.D.

California State University, Fullerton

Sara Johnson, Ph.D.

Sara Johnson, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Cal State Fullerton, is recognized for her innovative leadership with her award-winning Urban Agriculture Community-based Research Experience (U-ACRE) program, which engages students in high-impact learning experiences through community-based research.

As founder and project director of U-ACRE, Dr. Johnson contributes to student success by involving them in research to develop a sustainable local food system centered on food security, nutritional sufficiency and social justice. The project, which received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has resulted in significantly greater outcomes for its student participants, the majority of whom come from underrepresented communities.

Based on an assessment conducted by Johnson and the CSUF Division of Anthropology Assessment Committee, U-ACRE students, in comparison to other upper-division GE students, had a significantly greater understanding of, and enthusiasm for, science and its application to real-world problems that impact their communities, and were twice as enthusiastic about engaging in scientific research.

Johnson's students have gone on to obtain competitive internships with organizations such as the CSU's Water Resources & Policy Initiatives, USDA and the U.S. Forest Service. U-ACRE alumni have successfully gained acceptance to graduate and doctoral programs across the nation to study public health and law, while others are now working in jobs related to their U-ACRE experience.

“[U-ACRE] helped me progress toward completing my bachelor of science degreesince I was able to utilize and enhance the skills I learned in my coursework, occupations and internships. Completing different tasks and learning different topics became more manageable and intriguing since I knew how to approach each unique situation with a perspective that would allow me to reach a comprehensive outcome," says Ejike Anusiem, U-ACRE and CSUF alumnus.​