Student Spotlight: Ren Johnson

Ren Johnson

LGBT+ Club president earning Psychology Transfer Pathway A.A.

Ren Johnson, 19, is completing a Psychology Transfer Pathway A.A. at Inver Hills Community College with plans to graduate in spring 2025. Ren is an exceptionally engaged student at Inver Hills. They serve as president of the college’s LGBT+ Club and are active in Art Club, Beta Sigma Omega Lambda (BSOL) Criminal Justice Club and the Inver Hills Choir.

Ren Johnson at Bottomless Coffee with Jerome podcast

Ren also belongs to Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) and Psi Beta, the former the international honor society for the two-year college students, the latter  the national honor society for two-year college students majoring or minoring in psychology or simply interested in the field of psychology.

Ren’s involvement on campus includes working nearly 20 hours a week as a student ambassador and student employee in the Counseling & Advising department. They are Mental Health First Aid certified, a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance-use issues.

Ren Johnson at Bottomless Coffee with Jerome podcast

“The thing that I love the most about participating in a variety of student clubs and organizations is all of the different kinds of people who I connect with,” they said. “One of my goals in college is to branch out and meet new people, regardless of what groups they may fall into. I believe that surrounding yourself with a diverse group of peers is incredibly important, because it prevents you from becoming too extreme in any ideal and recognizes perspectives you may have never considered.”

Ren manages their time through a Google Calendar shared with their family. “I also have two amazing supervisors who are very flexible with my needs,” they said. “I also keep a weekly to-do list on my phone with scheduled days for certain homework and for personal time that keeps me on track.”

Ren is looking forward to transferring to Winona State University after graduating from Inver Hills. “I would like to pursue a B.A. in Psychology with a Communication Studies minor,” they said, “and eventually earn an M.A. in Psychology. My dream job would be working as a student life/student affairs director or as a counselor/advisor in a college academic setting.”

Faculty perspective: Amy Zsohar, PhD

Amy Zsohar, PhD

“Ren is a natural leader. They constantly work to model self-care, self-advocacy, and boundary management. I spend a great deal of time in awe with all the things they have figured out that I am still struggling to do.

“They do not shy away from the difficult conversations. It is so powerful to see someone who has such an open mind and heart, while also maintaining and enforcing their boundaries.

“I also have the honor of teaching Ren and appreciate their willingness to speak up. They have actively worked to build community in their class. I am constantly humbled by Ren. They are a true gift to the college, LGBT+ Club, classes, and community.”

Amy Zsohar, PhD
Communication Studies Faculty
LGBT+ Club Faculty Advisor
Inver Hills Community College

Staff perspective: Kimberly Swinney

Kimberly Swinney

“Ren is one of the most talented student leaders I have worked with. They serve in countless leadership positions on campus, and it is evident that they love the Inver Hills community. Ren is a strong advocate for the LGBTQIA2S+ community and will always speak up to make campus a safer space for all students.

“I appreciate Ren’s thoughtfulness in working with students and ensuring that everyone feels supported, seen, and valued.

“It has been amazing watching Ren create a stronger sense of belonging on campus by inviting others to join their group, supporting students looking to start a new club, or personally inviting a student to attend an upcoming event with them.”

Kimberly Swinney
Student Life Director
Inver Hills Community College

Bottomless Coffee with Jerome podcast at Inver Hills

Ren Johnson, Amy Zsohar, Jerome Evans

The LGBT+ Club at Inver Hills Community College hosted a Bottomless Coffee with Jerome podcast, “Queer Life of College Students,” Monday afternoon, February 26, 2024, in a Fine Arts building classroom on the college’s campus in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.

Amy Zsohar, PhD, communication studies faculty and LGBT+ Club faculty advisor, reported that Jerome Evans interviewed six Inver Hills student LGBT+ Club members for the podcast, which was recorded for later broadcast (date and time TBD).

“At last Monday’s podcast recording with Jerome from Bottomless Coffee, Ren and his fellow LGBT+ club members had a chance to talk about the advocacy work they are doing to make Inver Hills more inclusive,” Amy said. “They spoke about the things cis-het students don’t have to think about. They spoke about what they want to still see changed. And they spoke about what brings them joy! All of this work that Ren and their fellow club members do is about finding joy!”

Topics discussed during the podcast included:
  • How is your college life different from your life in high school?
  • Did you advocate for yourselves in high school?
  • Inver Hills advocacy and resources: What advocacy work has been done so far and what do you plan to do in the future?
    • Prism Center of Gender and Sexuality
    • Code of Conduct
    • Gender neutral bathrooms
    • Locker rooms
  • Coming out and being outed: Who feels like they came out on their own terms and who feels like they were outed?
  • What are some things that teachers or other students do that make you feel comfortable?
  • Transfer students: What was your experience like?
  • What brings you joy?

Ren Johnson: Bottomless Coffee with Jerome podcast Q&A

How did you go about arranging and coordinating the event?

I met Jerome at the QUORUM National Coming Out Day Luncheon through LGBT+ Club. He was one of the speakers at the event, speaking about his podcast and the impact it had. After the speeches, Amy and I connected with him about his interest in attending an event hosted by the LGBT+ Club at Inver Hills. After that, Amy scheduled the event with him over email. He was incredibly friendly and easy to work with, and made coordinating for the event a breeze.

What did you enjoy most about the podcast?

My favorite part of the podcast was sharing joy with the other members of LGBT+ Club and Jerome Evans. It was wonderful not only to share my experiences, but to listen and learn from my fellow members and their truths. Jerome was an excellent conversationalist, and listened to us with excitement and willingness to learn. The podcast allowed us the opportunity to be heard. I especially loved being able to advocate, and share both the past changes and future advocacy work that LGBT+ Club is doing on campus.

What LGBT+ Club events do you have planned for the future?

Monday, March 11, 2024, 3 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Upcycling thrifted items for upcoming Student Drag Show
Tuesday, March 12, 2024: MN Wild Pride Night
Monday, March 18, 2024, 3 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Costuming and makeup practice for upcoming Student Drag Show
Friday, April 12, 2024: Day of Silence (table set up for the week)
Wednesday, April 24, 2024: Denim Day/InverCourse—Hosting table with dildo ring toss and sexual health resources
Date TBD: Student Drag Show

Bottomless Coffee with Jerome podcast gallery

View more event photos by opening the Inver Hills Flickr album:

Bottomless Coffee with Jerome Podcast 2024 at Inver Hills

More about Ren…

Ren Johnson

Originally from Rosemount, Minnesota, Ren graduated from Rosemount High School, Class of 2023. They are an only child, and their dad, Truitt, is the RMA coordinator at Beckoff Automation, and their mom, Kristina, is a paralegal at Securian Financial Group.

Ren with their mom

“My parents have been a huge influence on who I am,” Ren said, “and they have always supported me through the many changes in my identity. My mom has been my biggest advocate, founding an ARG at her work called ‘Proud Parents’ to support and educate parents of LGBT+ youth after I came out as queer.”

Ren’s best friend, Brie, lives with their family and also attends Inver Hills. Brie is working to become EMT-certified on the way to earning an associate degree at the college. “We’ve been best friends for more than five years now, having each other’s backs through thick and thin. My family has three cats. Two are mine and one belongs to Brie.”

Ren with their dad

Named Thor and Loki after the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ren’s cats are from two different litters born the same day. “Thor is a lovable goofball and dumb as a bag of rocks —he’s an orange tabby,” Ren related, “and Loki is a mischievous calico that can unlock and open doors. Atticus, Brie’s cat, is a Bengal mix that is packed with energy 24/7 and acts more like a dog than a cat.”

In their free time, Ren loves making art, playing video games, and spending time with Brie. “My favorite medium of art is painting, but I often experiment with other mediums like ceramics, drawing, digital art, stamp-making, and sculpture. In terms of video games, I prefer low-stress ‘cozy’ games. My top games are Stardew Valley, Minecraft, The Sims 4, and Slime Rancher. Baldur’s Gate 3 is my current obsession, as I have a deep love for Dungeons & Dragons and nerdy things.”

Ren resides with their family in Rosemount.

Ren life and college gallery

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:

DIVERSE

Ren Johnson Q & A

Ren Johnson
What do you enjoy most about your role as the LGBT+ Club president?

The thing that I enjoy most about my role as LGBT+ Club president is that it allows me an opportunity to be an advocate for the LGBT+ community on the Inver Hills campus. I have many ways that I wish to continually improve this campus to be more LGBT and especially gender-neutral-friendly.

Being president of the LGBT+ Club provides the means to make these wants a reality. I also get to meet other members of the community, and I continuously learn from their lived experiences.

What advice would you give students thinking about participating in LGBT+ Club meetings and activities?

The advice that I would give students thinking about participating in LGBT+ Club meetings and activities is to start by just attending one meeting. Joining a new club can be very overwhelming and anxiety inducing, so in the LGBT+ Club we try our best to accommodate and include everyone.

We welcome everyone, even if they are an ally of the community. A prospective student could always begin by spending time in the Prism Center if the club doesn’t work for them, so that they can get to know members of the club and community.

What do you find most engaging about your Psychology Transfer Pathway program coursework?

In my Psych Transfer program coursework, I find my weekly class discussions to be the most engaging. In my Sociology class, we do weekly readings on sociological issues in the world and write a response to them. Through these articles I have learned a lot about diverse issues, and how to view them from a sociological perspective.

Similarly, there are weekly application questions in my Psychology classes that put the textbook knowledge to use thinking about real-world issues. Both are the highlights of my week, as I get to educate myself on how the world works.

Three words that describe you as a college student:
AMBITIOUS. OUTGOING. INVOLVED.

What area of psychology interests you the most and why?

The area of psychology that interests me the most is analyzing and predicting why people act the way they do. One of my previous psychology teachers once said, “Life is like playing a game without the rules, and psychology teaches you those rules.”

I’ve found this quote to be incredibly impactful. By learning psychology I have gained much more perspective on others. I can approach them with sympathy, understanding the root causes of their behavior.

What traits and abilities do you have that can help you succeed in the mental health field?

I am incredibly empathetic and friendly with new people, and always approach things with an open-minded view. I love meeting new people, and getting to hear their stories. I also love managing schedules, and degree planning.

I’ve spent countless hours playing around in e-Services with the other Minnesota State colleges courses, and in the DARS degree planner. I’m a big problem-solver, and love making plans to complete tasks.

I am also Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) certified, which has trained me in how to recognize and respond to mental health and substance abuse crises.

What do you like best about attending Inver Hills?

My favorite part about attending Inver Hills is both the students who attend and the faculty who work here. As someone who went to a very white suburban high school, I wanted to go to a college where I could interact with people of various ages, genders, cultures, and races.

Inver Hills has been a great place for me to achieve that, and I have expanded my knowledge a lot in the short time I’ve been here.

What person has influenced your life the most and why? 

In my life, my mom, Kristina, has definitely been the biggest influence on me. When I was a child, we bonded over watching LGBT shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race. Most of my mother’s friends that I saw as a child were gay or lesbian couples. This exposure to the LGBT community at such a young age made me much more comfortable with that side of myself, and confident in who I was.

When I eventually came out as a queer trans person, she fully supported me. Additionally, my mom is a very outgoing and friendly person. She could walk into a room knowing no one and leave with at least five new friends. This has dramatically shaped my approach to people, viewing strangers as friends who I simply haven’t met yet.

My mom has also been the main contributor to my work ethic and drive, as she worked a full-time job while a full-time student at Inver Hills earning a Paralegal A.S. to support herself. She received a 4.0 GPA in high school and was accepted by an Ivy League school, but didn’t have the money to attend. She pushed me to go to college myself, Inver Hills specifically.

If you could make one thing happen on Earth right now, what would it be?

Remove gender-based violence.

Ren Johnson • 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Kickboxing 
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Switzerland 
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: I ran a 5K marathon mud run last summer with Brie and her younger brother 
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Invest money into a variety of high-yield accounts 2) Pay off the debt of and support those around me 3) Donate the rest to charities and causes that I believe in 
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: The series The Haunting of Bly Manor 
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: If I wouldn’t be killed by illness or murdered for my identity, probably the 1920s 
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Having a legacy built on uplifting and supporting others—being remembered fondly 
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Peacock 
  9. Dream occupation: Director of student life at a college 
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Will Wood 
  11.  Skill you would most like to learn and master: Playing the piano
  12.  Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Distribution of wealth and resources
Learn more about the Psychology Transfer Pathway A.A. at Inver Hills by contacting:

Admissions
Inver Hills Community College
651-450-3902
admissions@inverhills.edu
Virtual Visit

Learn more about the LGBT+ Club at Inver Hills by contacting:

Amy Zsohar
Communication Studies Faculty
LGBT+ Club Faculty Advisor
Inver Hills Community College
azsohar@inverhills.edu
651-450-3659

Jenny Schuhwerck
Testing Center Coordinator
LGBT+ Club Staff Advisor
Inver Hills Community College
jschuhwerck@inverhills.edu
651-450-3430

Learn more about diversity and equity at Inver Hills by contacting:

Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice & Belonging
Inver Hills Community College
equityandinclusion@inverhills.edu
651-423-8484

More about Psychology at Inver Hills…

Psychology coursework at Inver Hills makes perfect sense if you plan on continuing your college education to earn a more advanced degree. Taking psychology courses is a great way to build a versatile foundation for other learning goals.

Our psychology faculty believe that deepening your knowledge through the discipline of psychology will enhance your personal life while helping you grow professionally with a passion for civic engagement and social responsibility.

Why Study Psychology at Inver Hills?

Study what matters most.
Psychology is one of the most influential and resourceful applied sciences in the modern world. As a psychology student, you will work to better appreciate human diversity, becoming more empathetic and less judgmental along the way.

Deepen your self-awareness.
Investigating the multifold facets of human behavior will give you the tools to better manage your daily life. You’ll upgrade your interactions with others, improve your learning and memory performance, get a handle on stress, and learn to recognize the initial indicators of serious mental and emotional illness.

Psychology bridges all gaps.
Your psychology coursework will complement learning in other academic programs. For starters, fine arts, business, education, social justice, healthcare, biology, and communication majors can all benefit from the insights into human nature they can gain from their psychology studies. After all, people are the most significant moving parts in virtually every discipline.

Do your research on research.
Psychologists are master researchers. As a student in our Psychology Transfer Pathway A.A. program, you will make your bones doing research projects, which means you’ll strengthen your critical-thinking and analytical power while expanding your knowledge base—all transferable improvements to your skill set.

Don’t worry, there’s a scientific method to our madness.
As a psychology major you will learn how to state your question, propose your theory, and then construct a rigorous lab or field experiment to grill your hypothesis. Point being, you’ll learn how to take your findings and new understanding to create evidence-based strategies that can tackle problems and make a real difference in people’s lives.

Take things in stages.
Developmental psychology focuses on the typical stages of a person’s lifespan. When you study these stages in depth, noting progress and changes in terms of thoughts, emotions, functions, challenges, and behavior, you begin to empathize with the confusion and difficulties people face during each obligatory phase of their lives. That empathy is the very reason you chose psychology in the first place.

Specialties are our specialty.
Need to find your ideal niche? Lucky for you, psychology is a field with nearly more specialties than humankind has varieties of apples. You’ve got clinical, cognitive, counseling, engineering, experimental, forensic, geriatric, industrial, school, sports, and more. Find out which one resonates the most with you.

Psychology today, career success tomorrow.
Our Transfer Pathway A.A. gives you the credits you need to transfer with junior-year status to a psychology baccalaureate program at a Minnesota State university. Your education at Inver Hills will propel you toward your academic future and career calling.

Explore the human heart with clear vision.
Psychologists are trained to identify and analyze human behavior across the spectrum. They work with children and adults of all ages and walks of life to help them solve problems related to mental well-being and emotional stability. Psychologists are also keenly involved in the process of examining behavioral modes that influence the lives of healthy human beings.

Career Opportunities


Quick Facts: Psychologists

2022 Median Pay: $85,330/year, $41.02/hour
Job Outlook 2022–32 6 percent, faster than average

What Psychologists Do

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and to their environments. Read more…

Work Environment

Psychologists work in a variety of settings, such as schools, hospitals, and private practice. Most are full time, but part-time work is common. Some work evenings or weekends to accommodate their clients’ schedules. Read more…

Pay

The median annual wage for psychologists was $85,330 in May 2022. Read more…

Job Outlook

Overall employment of psychologists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations. Read more…

About 12,800 openings for psychologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. Read more…

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Psychologists (March 4, 2024)

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