Marci Johnston: After 25 years still learning, growing at LBCC

photo of advising support specialist Marci Johnston

“I have so much love and admiration for the people I work with and for the students who come here to change their lives,” said Marci Johnston.

Her favorite days are the first day of the academic year and graduation.

“You see them all excited to start school, then you see them smiling and hugging families with everyone so proud of their accomplishments,” she said.

Johnston is a career and advising support specialist at Linn-Benton Community College. She and her colleagues in the Advising Center provide academic advising, support student well-being through proactive services and crisis support, and offer career services.

There are a lot of aspects to Johnston’s job. 

She works with students from orientation to searching for scholarships, doing career assessments and in-depth career exploration, reviewing resumes and cover letters, and performing mock interviews. She works with local employers who are looking to recruit LBCC graduates, and she teaches part time.

The first interaction students have with Johnston is often during new student orientation or, for those who are undecided, when it is time to declare a major. “I talk with students about their skills, interests, and values … find out what’s important to them, and get them on track to a career path that fits,” said Johnston.

Her personal educational experience is helpful in those discussions.

Johnston attended both Portland State University and Portland Community College—she moved to Portland to join a water ski team—yet she eventually earned an associate degree in business from LBCC.

“I wasn’t sure of my path,” she said. “I majored in business. It fit my skills and was something I knew gave me options … but I was undecided about a career.”

Johnston took general education classes, psychology, and sociology. Some of her family members were teachers, so she also thought about teaching. Then, while studying in Portland, a part-time job at Oregon Health and Sciences University had her considering a career in health care. 

“I was just trying to find my way,” she said.

Johnston’s daughter, the first of three children, was just one year old when Johnston moved back to Albany and took a job as an administrative assistant in LBCC’s business division. 

“Once I got here, I found such a supportive environment,” said Johnston, “that I never left.” 

Having lived through challenging life events ranging from personal loss, injury, a family member’s drug addiction, and more, that supportive environment helped her remain at the college.

When a position as career and employment specialist became available, Johnston took the chance. She found it to be the perfect combination of the three things she wanted to be when she grew up: teacher, counselor/people helper, and businessperson. Her daughter Marissa now works alongside her.

“It was a growth opportunity for me. I was a quiet introvert and suddenly I had to do public speaking in front of 200 students at orientation, at high school visits, campus tours, and outreach to employers,” she said.

Johnston believes her life circumstances have made her better in her work.

“I feel I have a lot of empathy. No judgment … just support,” said Johnston. “I try to be transparent and connect with the students. I love being able to share my story and give them hope and encouragement.”

Most of all, she loves helping students.

“Helping students with their resumes so they can see what they have accomplished, all their skills and their potential … those are the things that make me smile and feel good about the work I do.”

Johnston says she is constantly learning, and that the ebbs and flows of each academic year and the vibe of each new term keeps the work fresh.

“It’s pretty exciting. Even after 25 years, I’m still learning. I have just loved it,” said Johnston. 

“I found my people. I found my place.”


If you're a current or prospective LBCC student and wanting to learn more about our advising, careers & well-being options, you can visit our webpage. 

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