The unofficially deemed “campus mom”, Duquina Johnson, will be serving her last year as McElwain Hall’s residence life coordinator causing devastation and sadness amongst the staff and students that know her.
Johnson, also known as “Ms. DQ”, who has been known to positively impact the many students on campus through her love and support, surprised students by revealing this news.
By being a residence life coordinator, she is full-time, live-in professional staff member responsible for supervising a community of students, which in this case are the residents of McElwain Hall in South Halls.
According to Wanjala Mwesiga, a sophomore industrial engineering major, who lives in her building, describes Johnson as simply “amazing,” while others describe her as “inspirational”, “courageous”, and “genuine.”
“You don’t meet a lot of people with [her] personality. She treats everyone with a motherly feel. You can tell she wants the best of you,” said Mwesiga.
He and Johnson have a good relationship as she helps him through the Residence Assistant (RA) process as well as occasionally talking about his personal and academic life in her office; he even has her cell phone number.
On his floor, he describes her as being great at balancing the role of enforcement and a playful/outgoing role with her residents.
“It’s not all seriousness. She’s very chill when need be [and] flips [the] switch when she has to,” said Mwesiga.
John Hurst, the assistant director of student for residence life, who has known Johnson for about five years, agrees with that statement.
“She has a heart of gold. Works well with students,” said Hurst, “She can be tough on them if they made a bad decision. [She has a] caring aspect kids respond to. She’ll let you know if you’re doing something wrong or right. There [are] not that many ‘Ms. DQs’ around.”
Hurst also touched on how well she can work a room, which, in his opinion, can be hard to do with college students.
“She makes friends quickly with students who may not be wanting. She can walk in the commons and recruit quickly. I always ask her to present [at residence life programs]” said Hurst.
On campus, it has been said that Johnson has impacted the lives of almost anyone she has encountered.
Most have said that she makes people feel comfortable and has the ability to draw people close together; she builds the community.
Natasha Bailey, a Penn State 2014 graduate, who was a RA in McElwain Hall for one year, said that Johnson has an “open mind, which allows her to relate to people well, and is a great supporter for many students, especially the students of color on this campus.”
According to her RA, Guelila Coupet, senior majoring in economics and minoring in sociology, Johnson is “relatable to students, and [they] could come to her for help. It is an important factor. Not many people can go to a staff member and talk to them how you would a friend and get insight.”
Johnson received her bachelor’s degree at West Virginia State University, which is a historically black college/university (HBCU), where she met her mentor, Patricia Rosenbourgh, who she said changed her life.
As stated by Johnson, Rosenbourgh was to her what the students say she is to them.
“[She was my] momma, big sister, biggest cheerleader. [She] supported me in anything I wanted to do. I was so lost in college—what I was good at and what I was going to do,” said Johnson, “I was convinced I was going to be the next Pam Oliver.”
Pam Oliver is an African American sportscaster for Fox News.
After becoming a RA on her campus, she began to ask Rosenbourgh things such as, “How do I get to where you’re at?” and say, “I want to be what you are to me.”
From there she began to move up in the residence life department and became the head RA before senior year and eventually was an interim role for the residence life director as a student.
Since then she has worked at the state of West Virginia as a behavioral specialist as well as a residence life director at Wilberforce University, which is a HBCU in Wilberforce, Ohio.
At that university she made sure she got to know the students and for not just conduct reasons but to get to know them as individuals.
She became their cheerleader, because in her opinion “college students need a cheerleader and momma figure.”
Not long after she discovered that she began to get really sick with Thyroid disease and Endometriosis, and needed a school with better benefits, such as a larger institution, she ended up at her top school choice, Penn State.
Thyroid disease creates either too much or too little hormones, while Endometriosis is a chronic disease that causes tissues to line the uterus.
Johnson loves the students’ passion the most at Penn State.
“The passion that PSU students have is unmatched, regardless if they are a passionate partier, philanthropic, or scholar. It’s so strong here and you gain more passion when you’re here,” said Johnson.
Johnson said she tries to be a mentor, friend, guide, and administrator; she tries to impact the personal and academic lives to all the students she encounters.
She was astonished when she was told she holds the title of “campus mom” to many students.
She said, “I am!? Oh my goodness, now I’m about to tweet it. Momma DQ.”
Johnson was honored to be seen as that because of her health issues.
Because she has Thyroid disease and Endometriosis this affects her fertility.
Johnson said, “To know students see me as that, means more to me personally than professionally. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to leave a legacy. With the inability to have children, the fact that they see me like that makes me know I’m impacting them the way I want; they love me.”
She was finally able to become to her students what her mentor, Rosenbourgh, was to her.
Johnson mentioned that this will be her last year as coordinator.
Some people, such as alumna Bailey, said she would be “devastated,” and it would be “odd because she was such a staple in [her] life. “
Mwesiga was able to speak with this about her before and jokingly, keeps trying to find a way to get her an extension, since coordinator jobs have a certain time frame to be held.
At Penn State, residence life coordinator positions have a time frame of about four years until the position will be opened again.
He also said that he “knows it’s what’s best for her but there probably won’t be another person on campus that will have the impact she has given.”
Hurst agreed, and said that it would be “sad because of the contact with students. It’s obvious that students of color have other needs and seeing someone of color in a professional position does wonders with communication to that community. DQ has a real good connection with students. “
Although she may be getting a new job, it may not be outside of Penn State.
Johnson has said she likes helping students with making the collegiate decisions, so jobs involved with admissions, academic advising, or recruiting into college is where she would like to go to next.
If she does not get a job at Penn State or the other campuses, she will be leaving.
“I love Penn State, the students and the growth I have experienced personally and professionally,” said Johnson, “I want multiple staff to have the Momma/Uncle title. They’re definitely educating and challenging. I wish more faculty and staff would do what I do so I’m not the only one.