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Former public policy director named president of Illinois Wesleyan

Eric R. Jensen was named the 19th president of Illinois Wesleyan University, its Board of Trustees announced Monday. Jensen served as a professor of economics and public policy at William & Mary from 1982 to 2012, as well as director of the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy from 2004 to 2012.

“Eric Jensen was a longtime, highly regarded William & Mary professor and leader of our Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy,” said W&M President Taylor Reveley. “It’s grand to see him joining the ranks of university presidents. Illinois Wesleyan has chosen wisely. William & Mary is very proud of our former colleague.”

Eric R. Jensen. Photo courtesy of Illinois Wesleyan University.Jensen was named following a national search, which began in February, Illinois Wesleyan said in a press release. He will succeed Richard F. Wilson, who retires at the end of October. Jensen will assume his new post Nov. 1. In addition to being appointed to the presidency, he was also awarded a tenured professorship in economics.

Jensen said in a university release that he was proud to have been selected to lead Illinois Wesleyan and that he looked forward to promoting the values and importance of the university’s liberal arts mission and working with the people of Wesleyan.

“I remarked on my recent campus visit how at home I felt walking onto [the] campus, and how impressed I have been with the people I’ve met. It's the people who bring a university’s mission to life, and through their efforts and innovative approaches, distinguish it and prepare it for the future. Today this is more important than ever, as we face a changing higher education landscape. I look forward to working with the Wesleyan community to address the challenges that lie ahead," he said.

George A. Vinyard, chairman of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees, told a crowd assembled for Monday’s announcement, “We are delighted that someone with Dr. Jensen’s passion for the liberal arts and extensive experience and impressive record of accomplishment as an administrator, faculty member and scholar has accepted our invitation to serve as the 19th president of Illinois Wesleyan University.”

Most recently Jensen served as provost at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he has been since 2012. Jensen’s broad portfolio of academic and administrative experience was noted by the search committee in the university’s release.

“Dr. Jensen’s portfolio of responsibilities at Hamline went beyond that of most provosts, and included overseeing student affairs and working with the chief financial officer in the development of the institutional budget,” said Jean Baird, chair of the search committee, in the release. “We also valued the fact that he has had fundraising and external relations experience, both of which are important roles for our president. And importantly, we received feedback from representatives of all campus constituents that he had the kind of personal qualities they were looking for to lead the institution in these very challenging times.”

Baird also pointed to Jensen’s tenure as director of William & Mary’s Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy, where he was responsible for programmatic and curricular initiatives, and managed relationships with government agencies, nonprofits and private firms on a range of policy-relevant projects.

While at William & Mary, Jensen worked for four years with the College Board to develop and implement its Financial Aid Strategy Tool (FAST), which enabled participating institutions to individually tailor financial aid offers to admitted students. He was also named a senior fellow in the Program in Population at the East -West Center, Honolulu, and served concurrently as an economist for the Office of Population with USAID and a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow, based in Washington, D.C.

Jensen holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan and a bachelor of business administration in economics from the University of Miami.