University of Southern Indiana

Celebrating Dr. Nils Johansen's Career in Education

This summer, Dr. Nils Johansen celebrated his 50th anniversary of having his Ph.D. His journey in getting his PhD started by first serving in the Norwegian Army Field Artillery. After finishing his service in the artillery, he began studying at a technical college in Oslo for civil engineering. His technical college had connections with colleges in the U.S., and these connections led him to Purdue University. At Purdue, Johansen earned his BSCE in January 1966, followed by his MSCE in June 1967.  

He then began his PhD venture by working as a teacher’s assistant in the engineering and geology group of Purdue’s Civil Engineering Department. Followed by his teacher’s assistant assignment, he began research and finally was given a Ross Fellowship. He then received his PhD in the summer of 1971.  

Following completion of his PhD, Johansen became an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) within their Mining School. He stayed there for 25 years. At UAF he rose to full professor, department chair and intermittently acting dean. During his time at UAF, he took some sabbatical leaves that led him to USI. After he retired from UAF, he decided to come to USI.  

Now, he’s been at USI for over 20 years where he has taught more than 16 different college-level courses, some in engineering, but also, some in world geography. He continues to teach world geography after his retirement from USI in 2015. His journey after obtaining his PhD allowed him to follow his dreams by teaching about some of his favorite things: rocks, soil and snow. Growing up in Norway, he knew he wanted to be an engineer and build things from rocks and soil. Norway gave him those materials and helped show him the path he should take to accomplish his dreams.  

As a college professor, Johansen has been able to inspire students and colleagues to pursue their dreams, which is his favorite part of teaching. The words of wisdom he has for others, students, and colleagues is to keep on studying. He says, “Over the years I have met many people who, in turn, have inspired me to be who I am today.” 

Without inspiration from others and Johansen’s drive to continue to learn, he wouldn’t be where he’s at today, being able to celebrate 50 years of having a PhD.  

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