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Kansas Wesleyan University

Dr. Matt Thompson, President and CEO

Since April 15, 2013, Dr. Matthew R. Thompson has served as the 19th president of Kansas Wesleyan University. In a world where academic leadership changes quickly, Thompson has been a beacon of consistency for KWU. He is the fourth-longest serving president in the university’s 137-year history.

That consistency has led to exceptional growth. The university has increased its endowment by nearly 50%, posted record enrollment (and a 30% increase since 2019) and engaged in the most significant changes to its footprint ever. KWU added its first new, on-campus academic building in 50-plus years with the 2021 opening of the Nursing Education Center. This will be followed by the January 2024 opening of Coyote Village (the university’s first newly constructed student housing in some six decades) and renovation and expansion of music facilities, including Sams Chapel, which will open in the fall of 2024.

Thompson champions practical, real-world collaborations that can increase opportunities for everyone. Work with the Salina Family YMCA, local law enforcement and nationally known nonprofits have all provided new chances for students to work, learn and engage with the world around them. This includes the university’s launch of the Community Resilience Hub, an initiative focused on work that will lead to a more stable, secure and equitable ecosystem in the region.

KWU’s leader is also an advocate for the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion work that engages with DEI-related questions and issues, both on campus and in the community.

Thompson has also fostered efforts to realize the importance of spirituality on KWU’s campus and to adhere to KWU’s faith-based ideals; that is, to respect the philosophy espoused by the United Methodist Church: “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” KWU’s Campus Ministry program has grown noticeably during his tenure. Each athletic program and numerous activities have designated chaplains, who provide spiritual leadership and care for the students, and KWU has added an additional campus pastor, as well.

Before coming to KWU, Thompson served as the vice president for advancement at Florida Southern College. Beginning his career at his alma mater, Mercer University, Thompson has served in a variety of administrative posts. He has a broad base of experience, including advancement and fundraising, student life, academic curricula development, and alumni and community relations.

Thompson serves on several boards and committees in Salina and the state. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Communication & Theatre Arts and a Master of Business Administration from Mercer University. His Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration is from the University of Georgia.

Thompson is an Eagle Scout and served as a page in the U.S. House of Representatives.

He, his wife, Jennifer, and their daughter enjoy traveling as a family, participating in all aspects of campus life and attending the many cultural arts opportunities in the Salina community.

Mr. Ken Oliver, Executive Vice President for Advancement and University Operations

Ken Oliver joined KWU in 2018, adding to a significant record of success in higher education that has spanned more than 25 years. Oliver has spent time at five different institutions – Central Methodist, William Penn, Fort Scott Community College, Northwest Missouri State and Texas A&M-Kingsville – and at each, he has been a leader in taking those institutions to new heights. Oliver has played a key role in major milestones in fundraising, enrollment, marketing, finance, student affairs, athletics and Title IX. He has served as a vice president for more than two decades, but has held many different responsibilities in his career – recruiter, fundraiser, coach, faculty, athletic director, dean and a vice president.

He currently serves as the executive vice president of advancement and university operations while also acting as the KWU foundation administrator. His responsibility umbrella covers a number of university units – enrollment, marketing, institutional advancement, alumni and community relations, grant writing, university events, athletics, athletic training, financial assistance, human resources, business administration, mailroom, institutional technology, university store and plant operations.

He has led KWU to the most successful comprehensive campaign in school history, which has raised more than $34 million (as of Dec. 2023) while doubling annual scholarships and operation support, increased the endowment by 20%, increased the percentage of alumni giving and has spearheaded significant increases in enrollment, capped by the largest enrollment in school history in Fall 2023.

Oliver holds bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Theatre and Physical Education and Health from Central Methodist, as well as a master’s degree in Educational Administration from Northwest Missouri State. He enjoys strategic planning, spending time with his family, fishing, boating, golfing, supporting Coyote athletics and watching college football. His wife, Michelle, is a special education teacher in USD 305 and their son Brady is a junior at Salina South High School. They reside in Salina.

Dr. Damon Kraft, Provost and Executive Vice President for Student Success

Dr. Damon Kraft is the Provost and Executive Vice President for Student Success at Kansas Wesleyan University. Under his leadership, the university has achieved its highest retention rates in known institutional history, including its highest known average over the last five years. Dr. Kraft has led the university in reimagining its concept of the first-year experience for college students. This has included revising the first-year-experience course, beginning student success coaching for all first-year students, connecting incoming students with peer mentors, and creating programming to support historically underserved students. For his work in this capacity, he was recognized in 2021 as an Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate by the National Resource Center for the The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, based at the University of South Carolina.

In addition, Dr. Kraft leads institutional assessment efforts on campus, including the university’s most recent highly successful comprehensive review (2017) and four-year update (2021) with the Higher Learning Commission. He has been the team lead for KWU’s Assessment Academy team and the Equity in Retention team through the Gardner Academy. Dr. Kraft serves as a peer mentor for HLC Assessment Academy and serves on the HLC Conference Committee. As Provost, Dr. Kraft is also the cabinet-level official for Student Development, and he provides strategic direction for residential life and campus events. He completed his doctoral work in medieval literature at the University of Missouri, and his MA and BA, both in English, are from Emporia State University.

Ms. Bridget Weiser, Vice President for Student and Community Engagement

Bridget Weiser is KWU’s vice president for student and community engagement. She has been with the university since 2003, serving in different capacities across multiple departments. Under her leadership, the university has expanded Campus Ministry offerings, developed several key community partnerships and enhanced the campus safety program. She also has a leadership role in the Bieber Dining Hall and Coyote Village projects, as well as serving as the lead on all diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

Prior to KWU, Bridget was at Fort Hays State University working in the Campus Recreation and Intramurals department. She obtained a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from FHSU.

Mrs. Annetta Flax, Vice President of Finance and CFO

Annetta Flax ’13 is the vice president of finance and CFO at Kansas Wesleyan University and has been with the University since 2019. Much of the construction of Coyote Village and the Music Department’s renovation, including the Sams Chapel project, has taken place since she assumed her current role. Pioneer Hall and Peters Science Hall are both registered with the National Historical Society as part of this expansion.

Prior to serving at KWU, she worked in manufacturing accounting, city government and K-12 education. She is a first-generation student who earned a bachelor’s from KWU in 2013 and a Master of Accountancy from Emporia State in 2021.