Governor appoints two to eight-year terms as WMU trustees

Contact: Cheryl Roland

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed Ron Kitchens of Kalamazoo and Shani Penn of Detroit as new members of the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees.

Kitchens, chief executive officer of economic development agency Southwest Michigan First, will serve an eight-year term ending in 2024. He will replace Trustee James Hettinger of Fenville, whose term expires at the end of this year.

Penn is chief of staff to Chancellor Veronica Conforme of the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan. She will serve a term ending in 2024 as well, and she replaces Mary Asmonga-Knapp of Battle Creek, whose term also is expiring this year.

"We respect the decision of the Governor, and I look forward to working closely with our newest trustees as they undertake an important role in furthering the mission of Western Michigan University," said WMU President John M. Dunn after the announcement. "They are replacing two excellent trustees, Mary Asmonga-Knapp and Jim Hettinger, whose contributions to WMU are deeply appreciated."

Ron Kitchens

Photo of Ron Kitchens.


Kitchens has led Southwest Michigan First since 2005. He also serves on the Collaborative Development Council for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Prior to taking the reins at SWMF, he was CEO for six years of the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corp. His background also includes experience as a consultant and in local and national politics.

Kitchens holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Missouri State University, attended the University of Oklahoma’s economic development institute, completed corporate director training and certification at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and attended a negotiation and decision-making program through Harvard Business School.

Shani Penn

Photo of Shani Penn.


Penn, a 2000 alumna of WMU, has served in her current position with the EAA since 2015. Before that, she was senior strategy advisor to Gov. Snyder for three years. Her background also includes work as advisor and chief of staff to city of Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and a series of positions of increasing responsibility with Daimler Chrysler Financial Services and Chrysler Financial.

In addition to a bachelor's degree in marketing from WMU, Penn holds a master’s degree in human resources from Central Michigan University. She is now working on a degree from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

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