Headshot photo of Kelly Austin outside Old Main

Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses Kelly Austin announces departure

MAY 22, 2023

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Kelly Austin, Penn State vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor, will be leaving the University effective July 10. Austin has accepted a position as the senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. A search for a permanent vice president is expected to launch shortly.

As chief academic officer for Embry-Riddle, Austin will be charged with student-focused operations at the university’s Daytona Beach Campus as well as academic oversight for the entire institution. Austin is expected to play a key role in implementing the university’s strategic plan, which is currently being finalized to run through fiscal year 2028.

Austin was appointed leader of Penn State’s Commonwealth Campuses at the beginning of 2022. During his time as vice president, he oversaw all Commonwealth Campus academic and administrative programs and operations, including strategic and facilities planning; integration of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging into student recruitment, retention and the student experience; faculty recruitment and development as well as program and curriculum development; and served as budget executive.

“Kelly has demonstrated proven leadership skills and provided guidance to help our campuses grow and thrive,” said Justin Schwartz, Penn State executive vice president and provost. “Thanks to his efforts, and his commitment to our access and affordability mission, the campuses have the support they need to move ahead and boost student success and advance academic offerings.”

At Penn State, Austin was responsible for leading the University’s 20 Commonwealth Campuses in serving approximately 27,000 students in associate, baccalaureate and graduate degree programs, in addition to 5,000 students enrolled in 20-degree programs delivered through the university’s World Campus. He also advanced the University’s regional economic development efforts across the state through the LaunchBox and Innovation Network. Penn State’s Commonwealth Campuses contribute nearly $1.23 billion annually to the state’s economy.

“Penn State has been my home for the past 11 years, I will be forever grateful for the privilege of working with the talented faculty, staff and students at this great University,” Austin said.

“The Commonwealth Campuses are at the heart of Penn State’s commitment to providing an affordable pathway to a world-class Penn State education to the families of Pennsylvania, in campus locations that are close to home. This has always carried a special meaning for me given my own experience as a first-generation college student," added Austin. "As I begin a new chapter at my alma mater, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, I will remember the impact Penn State has had on me and my professional journey.”

Among his accomplishments, Austin helped to launch several student recruitment and retention programs focused on access and affordability for students in the commonwealth. The Discover Penn State Award led to increased out-of-state enrollments at the Commonwealth Campuses, while other strategic institutional aid efforts and programs led to improved yield and retention rates.  In addition, numerous new academic programs and initiatives have been introduced across the Commonwealth Campuses, which have led to continued growth in the number of baccalaureate degree students. 

Over the past two years, Austin has helped create a new Undergraduate Student Research Fund, provided substantial support for hiring diverse faculty, partnered on a post-doctoral program with the College of the Liberal Arts, and supported increases in faculty research at the campuses. Austin also has invested in efforts to support the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff, as well as campus leadership.

Austin served on or led numerous Penn State planning groups, including the Strategic Plan Oversight Committee, the University Strategic Planning Council, a Diversity Framework team, the Tuition Task Force, and most recently the University Budget Allocation Model group. Austin led several task forces during the COVID-19 pandemic including the Return to Campus and Communities, and the Community Interaction and Coordination groups.

In partnership with the Office of Government and Community Relations, Austin supported outreach efforts aimed at strengthening the relationship between the Commonwealth Campuses and their respective legislative delegations. These advocacy efforts have and will continue to further strengthen Penn State’s relationship with communities across the state and have amplified the importance of each campus to the success of Pennsylvania. 

Austin's leadership during the transition to the University’s new budget model have allowed the campuses to continue to provide access and meet their mission across Pennsylvania.

“Penn State’s Commonwealth Campuses will continue to flourish and thrive through their shared commitment to student success built around collaboration,” Austin said. “It was heartening to see the tremendous outcomes realized through the seed grants we launched last year. Campuses brought forward important programs focused on areas such as research and community engagement; mental health and wellness; and student and career success.”   

Austin has been with Penn State since 2012, when he began his tenure as the chancellor of Penn State Schuylkill. In 2017, Austin moved to University Park, where he joined the Office of the Senior Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses as the associate vice president for administration. In 2021, Austin was named interim senior vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor.

Austin earned his doctorate in social and comparative analysis in education from the University of Pittsburgh; an MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; and a master’s in student personnel administration and bachelor of science in business administration/business management, both from Slippery Rock University.