Mark Johnson

I was able to customize my degree to include four areas that complimented my skills, experience and career goals. There is no other way that I would have been able to work fulltime and complete my goal of graduating from college.

Why did you choose the self-designed major?

After graduating from Superior High School in 2001, I took a semester off and started college in the spring of 2002 but didn’t have much direction. After a few semesters, I decided to join the workforce in search of something that interested me. In 2004, I found my passion when I started working in special education in the Superior School District and at a group home for adults with disabilities. I also started a business supporting adults with disabilities and got a full-time job in the school district as a behavior interventionist. In 2015, with encouragement from friends and family, I decide to go back to school to become a special education teacher.

Because of my previous college experience and need to work fulltime, I decided on the self-designed major. I was able to customize my degree to include four primary areas that complimented my skills, experience and career goals. There is no other way that I would have been able to work fulltime and complete my goal of graduating from college. After I graduated, I enrolled in the master’s program at UW-Superior to obtain my special education license.  

What support did you receive from our advisors and/or instructors in planning your major?

My journey would not have been possible without the advice, guidance and encouragement from my advisor and professors at UW-Superior. My advisor and friend, Mike Raunio, gave me the encouragement to enroll at UWS (again). He had already thought through some of the barriers I had, such as working fulltime, lower GPA than required to enter the education program, cost, course planning, etc., and helped me find solutions. Christina Kline and Dr. Maria Cuzzo were also very supportive during my process, giving me words of encouragement, praise and adulation, and reassurance during challenging times.

Overall, what was your experience like at UWS?

Each of my professors was always welcoming and supportive during my time at UWS. I had positive experiences with my coursework and enjoyed the Academic Service-Learning projects. Any time I had a question or concern with a class, I could email or call my professors and they would connect right away. They knew my name, were interested in my story, and valued my experience beyond college credits.

After I started my master’s coursework in 2019, my wife and I had our son, River Meriwether Johnson. Sadly, River was born still, and our world was turned upside down. Grief stricken and heart broken, I started school again at the end of October. My professor reached out to me personally welcoming me back and with great sincerity, offered her sympathy and condolences. The UWS Counseling Center was my first interaction with personal counselors. The folks in that department brought me through a very challenging time in my life. As I began to share my story with professors and classmates, I was always welcomed with open arms and felt the sense of caring and compassion from those in my courses.

How have you used your degree?

I began teaching at Superior High School in the fall of 2018. I was considered a strong candidate for the position because I attended UWS and my undergraduate self-designed major prepared me for the work that I would encounter as a special education teacher. I would not have had the opportunity to get the job I wanted, or continue at UWS in the master’s program, without the opportunity to design my own major.

What are your future career goals?

I continue to strive to meet my career and educational goals. My current goal is to finish my master’s degree at UW-Superior. I plan to continue to take opportunities that present themselves, and if I decide to go into administration or further my education, there is no question in my mind that it will be at UW-Superior.