Kentucky Wesleyan College announces appointment of Dr. James Cousins as 36th president

The Kentucky Wesleyan College Board of Trustees has announced the selection of James Cousins, Ph.D., as its 36th president. Cousins will begin his appointment on Jan. 1, 2025, and will work alongside the current president, Dr. Thomas Mitzel, through his retirement in December 2024, ensuring a seamless and momentum-continuing transition for the institution.

President-elect Cousins has served as the provost and vice president of academic affairs at Kentucky Wesleyan College since 2021 and has a distinguished career in higher education, including faculty and administrative leadership positions at several other colleges and universities. 

“The Board of Trustees was unanimous in its selection of Dr. Cousins and excited about the future of our College under his leadership,” said Trustee Chair Fred Wright ’80. “Dr. Cousins has proven his abilities as a strategic leader with a strong academic and faith foundation combined with business acumen. We are also blessed to have Dr. Mitzel leading the College through his previously announced retirement in December, thus handing the leadership baton in a seamless and transparent fashion.”

During his tenure as provost at Kentucky Wesleyan, Dr. Cousins spearheaded numerous strategic initiatives. These included the design and implementation of a comprehensive first-year student retention program, which yielded a substantial increase in retention rates. Additionally, he strategically reorganized online education, leading to record levels of online enrollment. Dr. Cousins also oversaw the successful completion of the College’s Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) fifth-year accreditation report, and under his leadership, the College completed several significant institutional partnerships providing Kentucky Wesleyan graduates with expedited graduate and career pathways.

“I am deeply honored to be selected as the 36th president of Kentucky Wesleyan College,” Cousins remarked. “Kentucky Wesleyan holds a unique place in the landscape of higher education and plays a special role in our community. Our campus is held together by bonds of faith, a commitment to liberal arts tradition and unmatched athletic achievement. It has been humbling to work alongside our world-class faculty and staff, each of whom is dedicated to the lifelong success of our students. I am grateful for their support and for the faith and trust of the Board of Trustees as we move the campus forward into the next chapter of Kentucky Wesleyan’s history.”

Prior to his arrival at Kentucky Wesleyan, Cousins served as associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Western Michigan University, overseeing student success, faculty engagement, assessment and curriculum development. Dr. Cousins was previously a faculty member and director of undergraduate studies in Western Michigan University’s Department of History. At Western, Cousins was instrumental in the creation of new academic programs, general education reforms, extra-institutional partnerships and a number of initiatives designed to increase student engagement and success.

Cousins has been recognized for many career accomplishments, highlighted by fellowships and awards, including serving as a scholar in residence at Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.), an American Council on Education Fellowship and the University of Chicago Library’s Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellowship.

An historian specializing in the history of the Early American Republic, Dr. Cousins has presented at national conferences and has published over 40 articles, essays, reviews and translations in popular journals such as The Journal of Southern History, The Journal of American History and The History Teacher. Dr. Cousins has also published two books: “Horace Holley: Transylvania University and the Making of Liberal Education in the Early American Republic” (Kentucky, 2016) and a co-authored work titled “Collaboration and the Future of Education: Preserving the Right to Think and Teach Historically” (Routledge, 2016). His upcoming third book is a history of America’s college and university presidents in the early 19th century. Dr. Cousins was recently featured in the PBS documentary, “Under Pressure: Changes & Challenges In Higher Education.”

After beginning his career as a teacher of history and Latin at Millersburg Military Institute in Millersburg, Ky., Dr. Cousins held teaching appointments at Kentucky State University, Berea College, Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and both an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Cousins and his wife, Carrie, a native of Georgetown, Ky., and Murray State University alumna, have one son, James “JP,” who is 7 years old. Carrie is a successful entrepreneur who owns and operates a chain of coffee shops.  

Kentucky Wesleyan College is a United Methodist-related four-year institution in Owensboro, Ky., which fosters a liberal arts education that nourishes and prepares students intellectually, spiritually and physically to achieve success in life.