From law to academia, Deborah Kish Johansen extends her leadership in academia with her new job as Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon campus president.

The road from law to academia has been a seamless one for Deborah Kish Johansen, who in January started her job as president of Hillsborough Community College’s (HCC) Brandon campus and is chair-elect for the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce.

Licensed to practice corporate law, Johansen said she entered the collegiate career track after learning of an opportunity through a previous chamber affiliation and then serving as an adjunct professor at Valencia College in Orlando, where she taught business law.

“I loved being around students on the college campus and seeing the light bulbs go off,” said Johansen, whose subsequent rise in academia took her to Colorado, Arizona and back again to Florida. She’s held positions of chief academic officer, chief operating officer, academic dean and graduate and undergraduate faculty, and before Brandon she was vice president of academic affairs at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville.

Johansen said Brandon campus issues include shifting enrollment patterns, ongoing attention to health and safety support, deferred maintenance of facilities and support for new and emerging programs and activities.

“Enrollment decline is a national issue, and we are no different,” Johansen said. “We do see some enrollment growth this fall semester, and we are excited about that.”

To maintain momentum, “we need to meet the modern challenges of students who want different flexibilities and learning styles,” Johansen said, as she noted hybrid learning opportunities that involve both in-class and online instruction.

In the works is the FINTECH program for financial technologies, which would include studies in cybersecurity and apps for online banking and investment services. Under research is a certificate offering, followed by a two-year degree program and a connection with HCC’s four-year college partners, Johansen said.

Newly established is HCC’s associate degree program in supply chain management, an especially relevant field today, Johansen said. She noted as well aquaculture and biotechnology studies, which, through the FUSE program, forges a pathway to biology degree studies at the University of South Florida.

The Environment Club is working to revitalize the food forest first created years ago for edible plants, which became overgrown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Johansen said. A fish pond also is in the works, with waste from the fish set to feed the food forest.

In keeping with its workforce readiness focus, HCC this fall launched the Bachelor of Science in nursing degree for registered nurses to continue their studies, the first four-year degree program offered in HCC’s 54-year history. It’s aimed to address the critical shortage of nurses locally and nationwide.

Also new this fall is the Pre-Health Society, under the auspices of the American Medical Student Association Club. The society is “an online community for students that will provide support in preparing to apply for medical programs,” Johansen said. “This is a student-generated program to create support to other students.”

Johansen plugged as well the seventh annual Hawk Run, scheduled for Saturday, October 22, “which last year raised enough money to start an endowment for scholarship perpetuity,” she said.

For more on Johansen and HCC Brandon campus offerings, visit

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