At their 25th college reunion, a classmate said to Ken Rogers ’82, “You surprise me. I didn’t expect you to do so well.” Ken, then chief information officer at Homeland Security, says he’s a little surprised too — but his economics and business professors weren’t. “They thought differently and continued to encourage me,” he says
Analyzing two Santa Barbara businesses for a class at Westmont motivated Ken as a student and taught him the value of applying his studies. After graduating, he spent six years working in finance for Rockwell International. “Business seemed like a logical place for me, but I never became passionate about it,” he says. As a high school student, Ken spent a year in Indonesia with his family building an aviation station. The summer after college, he went back to Irian Jaya with a different ministry, and he never forgot those experiences. While at Rockwell, Ken had a shadow career mentoring high school students, which took him to Columbia as a volunteer to run a camp for missionary kids. On his return flight, he met a couple who were reconstructing a city after an earthquake. He realized he wanted to use his business skills to help people in developing countries. He quit his job and enrolled in a master’s program in public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.
For the next seven years, Ken worked on a variety of projects for USAID, intent on achieving tangible results. One public-private partnership developed vitamin A-fortified foods to prevent blindness and death. He ran programs in 45 countries that applied technology to solve problems. He set up trade initiatives in the Balkans, sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South American and Asia. In the mid-1990s, he created an Internet-based system linking environmental technology companies to needs and business opportunities in developing and emerging markets worldwide. While working full time, he earned a master’s degree in international management at the University of Maryland. But the frequent travel kept him away from his family too much.
Ken joined a start-up company briefly, then worked with the Export-Import Bank to re-engineer and modernize the bank’s antiquated technology. He completed a third master’s degree, this one in information systems and technology from George Washington University. Before spending four years as CIO of the Science and Technology Directorate at DHS, he did strategic technology planning for the Commerce Department.
In June, Ken became director of IT strategy, governance and enterprise architecture at the State Department as a career senior executive. He’s developing the department’s five-year strategic plan using interactive, Web 2.0 technology that allows foreign services officers worldwide to collaborate in real time. “Through our blog we interact with more than 250 overseas posts and embassies to crystallize major technology issues that frame the global IT strategies of the future,” he says. “I’m using my international experience and expertise in technology.”
Over the years, Ken has been involved in ministries such as leading men’s Bible studies and teaching graduate students at Nyack College’s satellite campus in Washington, D.C. “Westmont renewed my love of learning and helped me understand it’s a lifelong pursuit,” he says. He’s excited that he and his wife, Pam, have discovered Ambleside School, a Westmont-like school for their four children in Virginia where they live. “I want to foster their love for learning like Westmont did for me,” he says.