Western Oregon University welcomes Dr. Jay Kenton as its interim president, beginning July 1 and is expected to stay in the position until a national search for a president concludes at the end of the 2021-22 academic year. Kenton is an experienced higher education leader in Oregon who has supported several public universities during his career.
Among Kenton’s multiple senior administrative posts at Oregon’s public universities, he worked for eight years as vice chancellor for finance and administration and chief financial officer for the Oregon University System and 16 years at Portland State University, where his last position was vice chancellor for finance and administration and chief financial officer. He briefly served as WOU’s interim vice president for finance and administration and interim president at both Oregon Institute of Technology and Eastern Oregon University.
Kenton recognizes that there are myriad challenges facing higher education right now, such as the pandemic and an ongoing budget crisis. “While I expect a lessening of these impacts, they will remain among the primary challenges as we begin 2021-22 with the hope that operations and interactions continue to renormalize,” he said.
He has already outlined numerous areas of focus for the coming months, which include rebuilding enrollment and working toward becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution; support and grow existing initiatives toward diversity, equity and inclusion; resume more in-person activities on campus based on safe and effective protocols and compliance with all applicable guidelines; maintain a balanced budget and work on replenishing the university’s reserves; and attract and retain a diverse faculty and staff.
“I will work hard to ensure that WOU gets its fair share of federal stimulus and state general fund funding for both operating and capital needs as this will be critical in keeping the institution vibrant, relevant and sustainable,” Kenton said. “I will attempt to rebuild community and unity through open and honest communications, involvement of various constituencies in policy formation, giving groups reasonable timelines to respond to ideas or proposals, making data-driven decisions, and generally being forthcoming with information to eliminate surprises and support hypotheses. Finally, I will advocate that we safeguard and invest in our people as they are our most important asset.”
Kenton looks forward to supporting campus initiatives and the work of the university’s strategic plan. “In my opinion, WOU’s strategic plan is remarkably simple, yet a powerful document to guide the work of the campus in the coming months. ‘Forward Together’ is the perfect title as it entails the engagement and involvement of everyone in the betterment of the enterprise. Student success, academic excellence, community engagement, accountability and sustainability and stewardship are easy tenets to support.”
Kenton earned his doctorate in Public Administration from Portland State University, and both a master’s in Education with an emphasis in higher education administration and a bachelor’s in Business Administration from Oregon State University.
When not supporting higher education in Oregon, Kenton enjoys woodworking, restoring antique mission furniture, reading, traveling, and a variety of outdoor activities.