Speaker antes up in grade challenge

by Sarah McKenzie

Donna O. Johnson will never forget the words of her undergraduate adviser and professor.
He told her black women were unfit for engineering. She went on to receive an A in his course, preside over several engineering societies and earn a spot at Amoco Oil Co. as a chemical engineer.
Johnson, a motivational speaker, held a workshop Saturday for more than 80 students — primarily from the Institute of Technology — in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science building. She has made it her mission to equip college students across the country with the necessary tools for academic success.
Johnson has delivered her message, the Guaranteed 4.0 Learning System, for 10 years. She claims attendees will achieve a 4.0 grade point average the next term or she’ll pay them $100 out of her pocket. She averages more than 75 seminars per year and has yet to dole out any cash.
“It’s something students need to hear,” said Samuel Moore, director of the Academic Program for Excellence in Engineering and Science. “It helps them to hear from someone outside of their own environment.”
The Academic Program for Excellence in Engineering and Science, along with 3M, organized the event.
The program oversees activities designed to enhance educational opportunities for African-Americans, Native Americans and women.
Three steps make up the formula Johnson swears by and developed as an undergraduate in chemical engineering at the University of Texas –Austin:
ù Go to class. Johnson posed a question to students to illustrate this point. “How many people go to a restaurant, tip the waiter, pay for a meal in advance and never take a bite?”
ù See professors or teaching assistants in each class at least once a week.
ù Manage your time wisely. “Do what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it,” Johnson said.
Reaction to her message was largely positive, and several students asked Johnson when she planned to come back or if she sold motivational tapes.
Tesfu Solomon, an IT junior, said he finds Johnson’s statements to be quite logical. “I’ve already used some of her methods,” Solomon said.
Others wished Johnson’s message came sooner in their academic careers.
“It is an excellent seminar. I wish I would have heard her two years ago. It could have made a big difference,” said Godfrey Simba, an IT senior.
Johnson plans to return to the University next fall for another seminar.