Board of Trustees

Gavin Keirans: Penn State Board of Trustees candidate

Biographical information


Education: B.S. business management, 2010

Work: strategy consulting manager; president and founder, Philadelphia Catholic League Alumni Corps; executive director, New Leaders Council (Philadelphia Chapter); two-term Penn State student body president; executive board member, Penn State Alumni Association; life member of Alumni Association

Please describe your motivations for running for the Board of Trustees.

Our board needs a diversity of thought, age and background that it is currently lacking. My experience makes me uniquely qualified to help fill this void and the vitality to shape our university for years to come.

As a two-term student body president and executive board member of the Alumni Association, I spent thousands of hours shaping the strategic direction of our university.

Since graduating, I’ve experienced success both professionally as a strategy consulting manager and personally by leading two Philadelphia non-profit organizations.

Penn State changed my life and helped shape me into the person I am today. I will work tirelessly to ensure that generations of Penn Staters get this same experience.

Please take a look at my detailed action plan and partner with me to help build a better Penn State for years to come.

What are the most important challenges ahead for Penn State, and if elected, how would you address them?

1. Affordable Education: First and foremost, we need to stop the trend of an ever increasing Operating Budget, with reduced/flat state appropriations, so that lower & middle class families can attend Penn State without drowning in student loan debt. We must also address the ongoing issue of our debt capacity and continual borrowing to finance new projects. This is a major reason why we have introduced new fee structures, such as the Facilities Fee, so that we can continue to finance the costs of new projects for student space.

2. Uniting Penn State: Sitting in a board room for two days every other month cannot suffice anymore for the role of Trustee. We need people who will engage with our student, faculty and alumni to bring them into the conversation, as well as champion their causes. Our Alumni Association recently published survey results on alumni satisfaction. We must address the red flags raised by the low satisfaction in board and administration performance, as well as the continued desire from over 80 percent of alumni to honor Joe and Sue Paterno.

3. Accountable Trusteeship: There is not truly a two-way conversation occurring, because trustees do not regularly engage with the greater University community. This has led to our present situation, where constructive dialogue occurs too rarely and I know we have to address head on, before the divide grows further. As a trustee, I plan to hold myself accountable through frequent public updates and have already launched an initiative called

If elected, what position would you support on the topic of Penn State board of trustees reform?

The main issue of the board’s structure is the centricity of power in non-elected trustees, specifically on the board’s Executive Committee. Unbelievably, there is currently only one alumni trustee sitting on the 13-member Executive Committee. It doesn’t take a math wizard to see that one of 13 stands little chance of effecting the sort of culture change our board requires. I believe the present situation represents a clear suppression of Penn State alumni, and on the very committee where decisions are made.

Our elected alumni trustees each have their own individual success stories, and more importantly they have the support of the Penn State family. Of the six alumni trustees elected so far, none are currently sitting the executive committee. In its current structure, in the most extreme of cases, there should be at least four alumni seats on the 13-member executive committee — proportional with the ratio of appointed to alumni trustees. This will ensure that Penn State alumni have a guaranteed seat at the table for all of the major decisions regarding the university.

Now go further. Ensure that student and faculty leaders have a seat at the table for all of the seven standing committees in ex-officio non-voting capacity. We need to ensure that there are official student and faculty committee spots in the Standing Orders, and that all committees are getting to hear the expertise of our students and faculty who are engaging the genuine challenges facing our university.

If elected, what position would you support about Joe Paterno?

Ignoring a problem only makes it worse. According to the recent alumni survey, more than 80 percent of Penn Staters believe the university must properly honor Joe and Sue Paterno. We can never truly “move forward” as a family without acknowledging and addressing this painful divide. As a trustee, I will utilize my experience as a successful campus leader to initiate the challenging but necessary dialogue between alumni, students, faculty, and administrators to tackle this issue. This is not to say that there are not other pressing issues that require significant focus, specifically needing to stop the trend of an ever-increasing operating budget, with reduced/flat state appropriations, so that lower and middle class families can attend Penn State without drowning in student loan debt. We must also address the ongoing issue of our debt capacity and continual borrowing to finance new projects. Some may question the ability to tackle all of these items but I know that I can “walk and chew gum” at the same time.

Is there anything else you want voters to know about you and your candidacy?

Having grown up in the Northeast section of Philadelphia, we always considered ourselves a Penn State family. My sister Taylor and I are both proud Penn State graduates. From the time I could dial a phone, I would call my grandmother to talk about Penn State’s weekly football game. She always hated when they didn’t play well. As I have now have gone on into my career, I always carry with me that I represent dear Old State and know that in no matter what city I am in, there will be always be a Penn Stater nearby.

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