Monday, January 12, 2009

Conference coordinator keeps busy outside of UIS

By Courtney Westlake

Grant Johnson
doesn’t settle for a life that revolves solely around his daytime job.

Johnson, who is a conference services coordinator, admits that he thoroughly enjoys his career as one of three coordinators that plans conferences and events in coordination with university departments, clubs, organizations and professors to plan and implement their events.

But besides his full-time job, Johnson also pursues a plethora of outside interests that keep him on his toes…literally.

“I’ve been dancing with the Springfield Ballet Company for the past 10 years,” he said. “My older brother was involved in theater and got me involved with the company. The ballet company was looking for additional men, so I met the director, and she asked if I could dance and I said ‘I've done some’.”

Johnson has been a featured performer and dancer with them for many productions.

“I’ve done numerous Nutcrackers. This year was 10th anniversary doing the Nutcracker,” he said. “I’ve done most of the storybook ballets: Swan Lake, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and other performances.”

As if that isn’t enough, Johnson has also been raising and showing Clydesdale draft horses with his parents for the past 20 years.

His family is primarily involved in the breeding aspect, and they also participate in local shows, such as the one held at the Illinois State Fair each August and the National Clydesdale Show in Milwaukee. Last year, they traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to take part in the World Clydesdale Show.

“It’s a family affair, something my family and I are very involved in,” Johnson said. “I just love working with the animals. I do a lot of the hands-on work with the horses; I do a lot of the showing. I love to give them attention and preparation for show. Just like an athlete needs to be trained or have practice, we have to do that with our horses.”

“I enjoy riding,” he added, “but I also like the traditional way of showing draft horses hitching the horses to a cart or wagon.”

Between his hobbies and full-time job, Johnson rarely gets a break, but he prefers it that way. Doing ballet, raising horses and especially working at UIS has allowed him to get to meet so many people.

“With my job I get to deal with so many entities and departments that I get to know numerous personnel,” he said. “I work with food services, building, electronic media, sometimes television, and other personnel around campus. Plus, I enjoy working with students to help them with their events to make them well-attended and successful. I like just making everyone happy and pleased with their event and showing off the university to the best of our ability."

Does he feel he is unique for having such a variety of interests?

“I don’t know if it's unique, but it keeps me busy,” he said with a laugh. “I enjoy being busy. Having horses is fulltime job in itself. We don’t live at our property, so we have to go out there twice a day, if not three times a day, to feed them and take care of them. It’s just something I really enjoy doing.”