Dr. Jay Golden’s (Arizona State, 1986) lifelong commitment to service, leadership and education predates his 2019 appointment as President of Wichita State University. As an undergraduate at Arizona State University, Dr. Golden put himself through school by moonlighting as a police officer. As a Brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi, Dr. Golden learned leadership and responsibility. Following a storied career in environmental protection and higher education, Dr. Golden was appointed by the Kansas Board of Regents to be the 14th President of Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas.
Hailing from Los Angeles, Dr. Golden’s father and godfather were both Brothers of AEPi at the University of Southern California. He joined the Alpha Sigma chapter at Arizona State University, where he served as pledge class president and chapter lieutenant master. As a member of the Jewish fraternity, Dr. Golden enjoyed the diversity and inclusion that AEPi fostered on campus. “AEPi enhanced my experience as a person,” he said. He credits his role as pledge class president—the new member who is a liaison between other new members and the chapter’s executive board—as his inauguration into leading others.
Dr. Golden’s educational and professional careers have both centered on sustainability. Initially going into public safety to investigate environmental crimes and hazardous materials, he had the opportunity to receive training from the EPA and other federal agencies in environmental protection. After pivoting into a Fortune 500 environmental management company, Dr. Golden went on to start his own business while pursuing his graduate degrees. While working as faculty at Arizona State University, Dr. Golden also formed and directed the Sustainability Consortium, which worked with corporations to better understand and minimize environmental impacts. His focus was to approach environmental protection differently.
“I really had a passion of trying to think through not just being reactive to environmental incidents, but how to be proactive; how to develop systems and programs that would prevent impacts to the environment, and the health and quality of people. Everyone yearns to find their passions, but that was a strong passion of mine. It made going to school more exciting for me and made me a better student.”
After receiving both Master’s and Doctorate degrees from the University of Cambridge, Dr. Golden accepted an assistant professor position at Arizona State University, as part of a tenure faculty track. Through professional connections and professional consortiums—including the Sustainability Consortium and the Research and Innovation Leadership Consortium that he also developed—Dr. Golden learned that Wichita State was looking to appoint a new university president. “I had been very selective as to the type of institution and community I would like to one day be president of,” he said. When asked his favorite thing about the university, Dr. Golden replied “the people, period.”
“Once I became aware of the opening at Wichita State, I spent about three weeks researching the institution and community in greater depth. It became very clear to me that Wichita State was a good match for me, and I was a good match for Wichita State. I’m not a believer in selectivity, I’m a believer in what you do with students once they’re at a university, and lifting the students, faculty and alumni is what I take pleasure in, and that describes Wichita State.”
Lifting up the Wichita State community to greater heights is the focal point of Dr. Golden’s goal as president. He plans to help students leave college with as little debt as possible and to make sure the campus is a safe environment for students of all beliefs, faiths and viewpoints. “My first and foremost priority is the student experience,” he said. “My goal is to continue to increase enrollment by providing a new and exciting curriculum.” In addition, Dr. Golden is looking for ways to increase Wichita’s nationwide presence as a diverse and inclusive campus, while dramatically increasing the economic vitality of Wichita and Kansas as a whole. With Dr. Golden’s selfless and steadfast leadership, Wichita State will soar to new heights.