Eric Johnson on learning the value of data and being on time

It was colder than average for early April in Fairbanks, but, like the climate, that was soon to change. As the cries of a newborn baby filled the air of a small room at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, the city’s residents could already sense the returning sunlight bring life back to the Arctic. Winter was over.

Perhaps the trees’ unfurling buds, stretching toward the warmth of the sun as if awakened from a long slumber, and the songs of glee emanating from the yellow-rumped warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets were brought on by the tilt of the Earth’s axis relative to its orbital plane, or perhaps it was something else. While the true meaning of the on-going phenomena outside may have been cause for scholarly debate.

Eric Johnson
Eric Johnson

Inside that small hospital room, the doting mother swaddled the new resident of Alaska, telling Eric Johnson in a calming voice, “I hope you learn the value of being on time, ‘cause being two weeks late cost you your PFD this year.”

Twenty-four years and one month later, Johnson, now a University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate with a bachelor’s degree in economics, barges through the doors of the Carlson Center. Out of breath, he trots through the hallway, searching for his fellow School of Management alumni. Turning the final corner, Johnson spots a familiar face disappear as a line of classmates file toward the arena floor. Sprinting to catch up, the belated newcomer surreptitiously slips into line, becoming just another person in the crowd while he moves to his seat. As he settles in, a voice pipes up from behind. “Dude, glad you made it in time, but I think J’s are over there…”

Johnson went on to earn his master’s degree in applied and natural resource economics and a graduate certificate in statistics from UAF. It seemed like a natural choice for him, because he grew up on the edge of the university arboretum, and spent a lot of time biking and skiing on the trail system.

In his decision to attend UAF, Johnson followed in his dad’s footsteps. His dad, Jerome Johnson, worked as a postdoctoral researcher and is a senior research advisor at the Alaska Center for Energy and Power and UAF’s Institute of Northern Engineering His mother, Nancy Hausle-Johnson, is active in the UAF arts community. Her artwork, the tile murals in front of the main door, is on display in the Butrovich Building. 

He joined UA Statewide’s budget office in 2013. As a senior budget analyst, Johnson has worked in various capacities, from compiling the individual university’s budget requests in support of submission to the state legislature, to the aggregation and reporting of system-wide facilities and financial data. Over time, Johnson has seen his role evolve, taking on a more technical aspect. Currently, his primary focus is building a data warehouse for the aggregation of data from disparate systems, automation of data processing and reporting, and working with other departments to standardize data for system-wide reporting.

“The most positive thing about working at statewide is the people,” said Johnson, who now works remotely from the state of Washington. “I've always enjoyed hearing different perspectives and learning from others.”

Before he moved Outside, Johnson lived in a dry cabin. “Everything takes twice as long,” he said of the experience of life without running water. 

Today, as you look outside and notice that the temperature in April continues to be warmer on average since that eventful day 34 years ago, you may be wondering, ‘Is there a connection here?’ If economics and statistics has taught Johnson anything, it’s that the answer is yes, there is a statistically significant relationship, and the value of being on time is $939.48.

“Although, even if you are on time, you might not be in the right place,” said Johnson.