Caitlin Johnson

  • M.P.A., Levin College - Cleveland State University
  • M.S. Journalism, Columbia University
  • B.A. English and Government, Cornell University
Where are you currently residing?
Bratenahl, Ohio
Where are you from? 
Westwood, Massachusetts
Current Employment:
Position Title: 
Director of Communications
Place of Employment: Policy Matters Ohio
Job Duties: Policy Matters Ohio is a progressive research institute that mostly focuses on state policy. We believe a strong public sector is vital for vibrant and thriving communities and ensuring good quality of life for all Ohioans. A lot of my work is communicating the right message to the right audience. How do we frame the research our analysts do to get the state to implement the policies we want? I make sure our work gets out to the traditional media, and I also do a lot on social media to reach other audiences. Day to day, I do a lot of editing and posting on the web as well.
Volunteer Experience:
A few years ago, I volunteered at Towards Employment, a great organization I learned about while studying labor economics at Levin. I am also active in the alcoholism and addiction recovery community and do some service work in that capacity. I was a volunteer SAT tutor while living in New York City.
Why did you decide to attend Levin?
I worked at WCPN and helped produce "The Sound of Ideas." We routinely booked Levin faculty as guests on the show. I became very interested in public policy. I decided I wanted a more active role in shaping policies I believe in rather than reporting on them.
What's your favorite Levin memory?
I had a lot of fun putting together a group project for my organizational behavior class. We proposed a merger between the East Cleveland library and the county system. I also really enjoyed Iryna Lendel's microeconomics class. She made me laugh on a regular basis when she'd chastise us for not doing our reading or coming to class unprepared. I also learned a lot in that class. The discussions in the distressed people and places class were some of the most thought provoking I've had in school.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned at Levin?
This seems silly - but learning about excel was huge for me. I never used it before CSU. Now I can find my way around it pretty well. It's been very handy. I also got a lot out of the nonprofit accounting class. I managed my own budget at my last job, so I used a lot of information I learned in that class. The class also helped me understand budget statements grantees would send to me when I was a fellow at the George Gund Foundation.
What inspires you about Northeast Ohio?
Most people in Northeast Ohio – my family included – came here for a better life. And through the booming manufacturing sector, it provided that. Obviously, the economy has changed since my grandparents came to Cleveland from Ireland, and the region is working to adjust. It's the unwillingness to give up that draws me to Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. It's also the humility and decency of the people.
What issues are you passionate about/what inspires you?
I truly believe in the mission of Policy Matters Ohio. I know that good policies passed during the New Deal helped lift my family out of poverty. I also know that many of these policies excluded and often oppressed people of color. I hope the work that I do helps Ohio and the country become a more just and equitable place.
Who’s your hero and why?
Probably my grandmother, Anne Sweeney. At age 16, she boarded on a ship alone and left her home in Ireland for Cleveland. She raised seven kids on a very tight budget. She had 29 grandchildren and countless great-grandchildren. She wasn't formally educated, but was a voracious reader and a true progressive. Tolerant and open-minded, she never said a bad word about anyone. I wish there were more like her.