A Life Dedicated to Making a Difference

PROVO, Utah – Apr 19, 2019 – Five-year-old Kena Mathews was taking a walk with her mother when she noticed for the first time a homeless person. For someone to not have a home was hard for Mathews to comprehend. In that moment, as a young girl, she knew her life’s mission was to help and serve those less fortunate.

“I have always been drawn to people in need,” says Mathews, a 2004 EMPA graduate from the BYU Marriott School of Business. “I feel a real kinship with people in need. It’s just in me to want to make a difference and do good in the world.”

Mathews feels she has been given many blessings, including, good parents, a good education, and good friends. “A lot of people don’t have these opportunities, so if I can make the lives of people who are less fortunate even just a little bit better, that makes me happy,” Mathews says.

As Mathews was deciding on a career path, she kept in mind her passion to help the less fortunate around her. After graduating from the University of Utah in political science in 1995, Mathews found herself working for different nonprofits around Utah. After overhearing BYU employees talk about the EMPA program at BYU Marriott, Mathews found herself extremely intrigued. In 2002, she decided to continue her education and apply to the EMPA program at BYU Marriott.

“I love to learn and always wanted to get more education,” Mathews says. “I didn’t have a specific career goal in mind going into the EMPA program, I just wanted to learn how to be a better leader.”

While in the program, Mathews worked at two different nonprofits in Provo—Neighborhood Housing Services of Provo and the Food and Care Coalition of Utah Valley. Shortly after graduating from BYU Marriott, Mathews became the director for the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity of Utah County and worked there for nearly fourteen years.

“One of the best things about the EMPA program is that it helped me learn business skill sets such as budgeting,” Mathews says. ”But the most important thing was it taught me to communicate at a higher level.”

In August 2018, Mathews accepted a job with the City of Orem as the community services manager. In her new position, she runs multiple community programs. For example, she runs a program to help find funding for nonprofits in the community, as well as a program that works in the low-income neighborhoods of the city to provide activities that help improve different parts of the neighborhood.

“The transition has been good for me,” says Mathews, who lives in Orem. “I have been able to bring all my skills and interests together in my new job. People may think I am boring, but I love to work and feel it is important to do all I can within my job and for those in my community.”

Not many people stick to the dreams they had when they were five. As a community services manager, Mathews has the opportunity on a daily basis to see her childhood calling to make a difference in the world become reality.

Portrait of Kena Mathews.
Kena Mathews, a 2004 EMPA graduate from the BYU Marriott School of Business.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Caitlyn Alldredge