Mark R Kennedy

"Kennedy doesn't ignore the elephant in the room; to the contrary, he looks it straight in the eye" John King - CNN
“Bold and smart.” Fred Barnes - FOX News
Mark Kennedy is Director of the Wahba Institute of Strategic Competition at the Wilson Center and an appointed Civic Leader supporting the Secretary of the Air Force. A first-generation college graduate, he has led at the highest levels of academia, government and business. Mark served as President of the University of Colorado and of the University of North Dakota. He authored Shapeholders: Business Success in the Age of Activism, published by Columbia University. Kennedy served as a U.S. Congressman (MN) and as a presidentially appointed member of the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiation. Mark was treasurer of company known today as Macy’s and helped Pillsbury buy and expand Häagen-Dazs. Kennedy founded the Economic Club of Minnesota and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and an MBA with distinction from the University of Michigan.

Academic Leader

  • As President of the University of Colorado (CU) from 2019 – 2021, effectively navigated CU through the pandemic and led the adoption of a system strategic plan. CU kept net tuition flat, expanded online offerings, and strengthened its technological infrastructure. In 2020, CU garnered $1.4 billion in sponsored research funding and gifts and $455 million in contributions. Board member of University of Colorado Hospital Authority and Fitzsimons Innovation Community.
  • As President of the Univeristy of North Dakota (UND) from 2016 - 2019, led the adoption and implementation of a strategic plan. UND increased graduation rates by 10 percentage points, expanded research and online offerings and underwent significant campus renewal.
  • Director and Professor of the Graduates School of Political Management at George Washington University from 2012-2016.
  • Authored a peer reviewed book Shapeholders – Business Success in the Age of Activism, published by Columbia University Press.

Public Servant

  • Represented Minnesota in the United States House of Representatives from 2001 to 2007, establishing a strong bi-partisan track record.
  • After service in Congress, was a Presidential appointee to the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations, serving under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
  • Currently a United States Air and Space Forces Civic Leader supporting Secretary of the Air Force.
  • Visited over 40 military bases in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, three aircraft carriers at sea and an attack submarine.
  • Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Economic Club of Minnesota.
  • Sponsor the Frontiers of Freedom Lecture Series at St. John's University, Collegeville, MN.

Business Leader

  • Senior executive on leadership team of the company that is today known as Macy' s.
  • Helped Pillsbury buy and expand Haagen-Dazs globally.
  • MBA with Distinction from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.


Globally Engaged

  • Member of the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Actively engaged academic, business, civic and government leaders over last four decades in 45 countries including regular visits to Europe, 16 visits to Turkey, 15 to China, 12 to Brazil, 11 to Japan, 8 to Mexico and multiple visits to the Middle East and Africa.
  • Lectured or led research projects on five continents, including at the University of Cambridge, University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University, University of Notre Dame, New York University, University of Tokyo, National University of Singapore and Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico.
  • Led global immersion programs for students in Ankara, Beijing, Brasilia, Brussels, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, São Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo and prepped one for South Africa.

Champion of Diversity and Inclusion

  • Left the leadership of every organization more diverse in terms of gender, race and sexual orientation.
  • At the University of Colorado, of the eight people involved with hiring, five were women, five were of color, all were the most qualified for the position.
  • Hired CU's first systemwide chief diversity officer and with CU Foundation initiated Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Innovation Fund.

Thought Leader

Director, Wahba Institute for Strategic Competition - The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Quoted in leading media outlets worldwide including BBC, CNN, CSPAN, FOX News, France2, MSNBC, NBC - Face the Nation, Sky News, Sky News – Arabia, NPR, SRF - Swiss Radio, Voice of Russia, Bloomberg / Business Week, Foreign Policy, the Hill, Korea Times, LA Times, Roll Call, Politico, South China Morning Post, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

Family Man

Kennedy and his wife of 42 years, Debbie, have four children, who have lived and worked on four continents, and nine grandchildren.