IRA Committee: Student Profiles: Lauren Johnson

Junior Lauren Johnson is no stranger to dealing with money.

As ASI’s vice president of finance, Johnson, a business accounting major, manages a budget of more than $700,000 and sits on ASI’s finance committee. As a voting representative on the Instructionally Related Activities (IRA) Advisory Board, she helps decide the allocation of class-related funds.

Now in her second semester sitting on the six-member IRA board, she will be helping whittle nearly $2 million worth of requests down to $900,000.

“There are a lot of programs on campus and they all serve really important purposes,” she said. “The faculty and staff are really in tune to student needs. It has given me a lot of faith in the faculty on campus.”

Johnson fell into the position last semester when former ASI President Mackee M. Mason and former Executive Vice President Sandra Flores were not able to serve for legal reasons. Since the IRA board’s bylaws call for an ASI executive to sit as chair, the responsibility passed to Johnson. Johnson is now carrying out her second semester on the board under the current chair, ASI President Graham Walhberg.

Johnson got into student government as a freshman, serving as a finance assistant and as chief of staff for former ASI President Juan Pablo Moncayo. In her sophomore year, she was elected senator for the Craig School of Business and later won the student body vote to place her in her current position as ASI vice president of finance.

After a tense and controversial campaign this year, Fresno State students voted Johnson in again as ASI’s vice president of finance for 2009-10. Those who know Johson commend her for her tough budget decisions in the past. Vice President of Student Affairs Paul Oliaro, Ph.D., supported Johnson’s decision to cut ASI’s travel fund by proposing that all retreats be kept local.

“Lauren understands that budget decisions reflect the value of the organization and that is what budgets are supposed to do,” Oliaro said. “She’s a good learner. She listens and she has students’ interests in mind.”

Even her dad, David Johnson, VP treasurer/controller of The Wine Group, praised her thriftiness. Unlike many children, Johnson did not receive an allowance growing up. But she was able to afford her own car before going off to college with the money she saved working in accounts payable in her dad’s office.

Whether it was during high school in Pleasanton or college in Fresno, Johnson has always been a person with varied interests. She played the saxophone in high school, went to Washington, D.C., with her legal debate team and now participates in the recycling club on campus. Her father prides her ability to connect with others and make people laugh as well as “her willingness to get involved.”

“She’s always been really active in different things,” he said. “She’s always wanted to try different things.”

But Johnson’s responsibilities have only piled up since beginning her stint in student government.

“I spend so much time on school and work, it’s like I lost all the hobbies I ever had,” she said. Aside from compiling an extensive budget for ASI and reviewing around 30 applications for IRA this semester alone, Johnson also fills the role of unofficial ASI spokesperson for media when needed.

In spare moments, she likes to follow up on constitutional law and court cases.

Johnson keeps a law degree in her list of possible options after college, but it’s a vast departure from her original ambitions. A Smittcamp Family Honors College student, she came to Fresno State as a biology major, but soon realized she had other, less time-consuming interests in mind.

“The good thing about accounting is that it’s recession-proof,” she said. “I’m pretty lucky. It’s a really solid job.”

She said if not for being compelled to follow the job market, she would gladly stay in Fresno for a long time.

During her sophomore year of high school, Johnson moved away from Fresno when her father got a new job in Pleasanton.

“She wasn’t really thinking she would go to Fresno State,” David Johnson said. “Then we moved up [to Pleasanton] and she got into Cal and some other great schools.”

In the end, Johnson just missed the Central Valley too much. “It’s one of those things when I was younger, I never thought I would come back here,” she said.

“But after I left Fresno for those couple years, I really missed it and now that I’m here, I really couldn’t picture myself anywhere else.”

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