The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Jenna Dorn Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

September 17, 2013


Jennifer Lynn Dorn was born in Grand Island, Nebraska in 1950. During her early childhood, her family moved to La Grande, Oregon until finally settling in Corvallis, where Jenna's father Harold taught Journalism. Following the completion of her studies at Corvallis High School - and after a brief stint at Columbia College, in Missouri - Dorn attended Oregon State University, where she majored in Journalism, wrote for the Daily Barometer and interned at the Corvallis Gazette-Times.

After graduating from OSU, Dorn moved to New Haven, Connecticut, intending to begin her career as a journalist. When she encountered difficulties finding a job as a reporter, she accepted a position writing copy for an advertising agency. Living in an urban environment opened her eyes to a variety of social issues, and in due course she joined the National Organization for Women and campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment.

Dorn ultimately decided that she wanted to work for change from within the government, so she enrolled in graduate studies at the University of Connecticut, completing her master's degree in Public Administration two years later, in 1977. While at UConn, she received the Karl G. Bosworth Award as the Outstanding Student in Public Administration.

Having completed her schooling, Dorn moved to Washington, D.C. to begin a long and fruitful career in public service. Her initial position was that of legislative assistant and committee staff support to Senator Mark Hatfield, during which time she chaired the Capitol Hill Women's Political Caucus. Later, Dorn met Elizabeth Dole, who quickly became an important mentor. For nearly two decades, Dorn served in several organizations led by Dole, including the Department of Transportation, the Department of Labor, and the American Red Cross. In 1996, Dorn also worked as Chief of Staff to Mrs. Dole during Robert Dole's presidential campaign.

From 2001-2005, Dorn led the Federal Transit Administration, and from 2005-2007 she was acting U.S. Executive Director of the World Bank. She was President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Academy of Public Administration from 2007-2010, and since 2011 she has led the American Academy of Physician Assistants, once again as Chief Executive Officer. Dorn is a Distinguished Alum of Oregon State University (1995) and the University of Connecticut (1992), and has received numerous other decorations including the Secretary's 9/11 Medal (2003) and membership in the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels (2013).