AR Briefly

Arkansas governor names new state higher education leader

By: - May 1, 2023 6:09 pm
Ken Warden

Ken Warden, Associate Vice Chancellor for Compliance and Legislative Affairs at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, will become the state’s next commissioner of higher education. (Courtesy of Rachel Putman/UAFS)

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced on Monday that she’d selected Ken Warden to serve as the Arkansas Division of Higher Education Commissioner. 

Warden is the associate vice chancellor for Compliance and Legislative Affairs at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, where he’s worked for nine years. He served as the dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology for six years and as the associate vice chancellor for Workforce Development for one year.

“I am humbled and honored to serve as the commissioner of the Arkansas Division of Higher Education,” Warden said in a statement. “I look forward to working closely with Governor Sanders and Secretary [Jacob] Oliva as we empower Arkansans with education — paving a path to prosperity for all Arkansans.”

Warden also spent 17 years at Arkansas Tech University – Ozark, where he served as the department chair of Automotive Service Technology, Business and Industry coordinator and chief officer for Business and Community Outreach.

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In addition to working for two university systems, Warden has worked in adult education and at two-year colleges. He has experience in program design, project management, community partnerships, career pathways, grant implementation and senior level academic leadership, according to a press release. 

“Dr. Warden’s extensive leadership experience in higher education makes him the clear choice to serve in this role as we usher in a bold new chapter in Arkansas education,” Sanders said in a statement. 

Warden holds a doctorate in Education in Workforce Development from the University of Arkansas, a master of Education in Educational Leadership from Arkansas Tech University, a bachelor of science in Vocational Education from the University of Arkansas and an associate of Applied Science in Automotive Service from Westark Community College, now the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.

Warden replaces Maria Markham who served as ADHE’s director from 2016 to 2023. Markham’s tenure ended in March when she received a call from Sanders’ office that “they were going in another direction,” according to the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette


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Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is a multimedia journalist who has reported since 2007 on a wide range of topics, including politics, health, education, immigration and the arts for NPR affiliates, print publications and digital platforms. A University of Arkansas alumna, she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a master’s degree in documentary film.