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Erika Bailey-Johnson is finishing up her fourteenth year as the first Sustainability Director at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minnesota. She was also appointed the Coordinator of the People and the Environment academic program in 2016 and teaches one class per semester. She works in the Ganawendakamigaawigamig (Office of Earth-Caretaking or Sustainability Office).


She completed her BA in Biology from the University of Minnesota, Morris in 1998 and her Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from BSU in 2006. Her background is in science teaching, and Erika and her husband taught for two years in Mexico and three years in Kuwait before returning home to Northern Minnesota.


In 2014, Erika was named one of the top 40 under 40 business professionals in the region by Prairie Business Magazine, and in 2015 as one of the top 40 under 40 professionals in the Midwest working to accelerate America’s transition to a clean energy economy by Midwest Energy News.

Erika speaks at regional and national conferences on BSU’s unique sustainability model which includes a wellness component and an emphasis on integrating Indigenous voices. She served on Governor Dayton’s Committee on Pollinator Protection from 2016 to 2018.


Erika is currently on the board for Fresh Energy, the Ernest Oberholtzer Foundation, Happy Dancing Turtle, and the alumni board for the University of Minnesota, Morris.


In 2022, Erika received the Minnesota State Board of Trustees Service Faculty of the Year award.  She is a founding member of the City of Bemidji Sustainability Committee, and for the past three years has been the Director of the Niizhoo-gwayakochigewin project to integrate an Indigenous lens into campus sustainability work and academic programs and the Co-PI of Endazhi-manidoowaadak to work on race relations in her community.


Her first book project was recently published and is a bilingual Ojibwe/English children’s book to connect children to the Ojibwe language and Mother Earth. Erika is an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe.

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