Johnnetta B. Cole currently serves as the fourteenth president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her career in academia began during her own education at Oberlin College and Northwestern University. Additionally, Cole holds honorary degrees from over fifty colleges and universities. Cole made history when she was named the first African American woman president of Spelman College in 1987, a position she held for ten years.
Cole's teaching and research focuses on the areas of cultural anthropology, African American studies, and women's studies. Her scholarship contributes to her advocacy for people of color and women throughout the world. Textbooks edited by Cole are used in classrooms throughout America's colleges and universities.
Cole is engaged in numerous community organizations as well as civic and corporate boards. Cole served as the Chair of the Board of United Way America from 2004 to 2006 and was the first African American to hold the position. She has been awarded many honors, including ones from the Carter Center, Merck & Co. and the Atlanta Falcons, for her outstanding service and educational accomplishments.
In 1998, Cole was appointed by President Clinton to an eleven-member commission on The Celebration of Women in American History. In 1999, Georgia Governor Roy Barnes appointed her to serve as a member of the Education Reform Study Commission.
Cole was named the Presidential Distinguished Professor Emerita at Emory University and continues to teach there as time permits. In addition to teaching, Cole chairs the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute at Bennett College for Women. Additionally, Cole currently serves as the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC.