MADISON – James C. Villa has been named Vice President for University Relations for the University of Wisconsin System.

UW System President Ray Cross announced the appointment today, following a national search. In this new position, Villa will supervise a team that is broadly responsible for external and internal communications, state government relations, and federal relations.

“Jim has a tremendous enthusiasm for Wisconsin and its great public university system, and his expertise in management, government relations, communications and marketing will help us strengthen the UW System’s communications and relationship-building efforts at this critical time,” said Cross. “I expect he will bring a fresh, outside perspective and many innovative ideas to our endeavors.”

Villa has a 20-year record of building strong teams and creative problem-solving, and has extensive experience in working with legislators. He is currently the president and chief executive officer for the Commercial Association of REALTORS®. Villa has previously held leadership roles at the state and local levels, including service as chief of staff for then-County Executive Scott Walker, and State Senator Alberta Darling.

In his new role, Villa will play a critical part in developing, implementing, and evaluating strategies that improve the UW System’s relationships with elected state leaders. He will also work closely with the Board of Regents, President Cross, the UW Chancellors, and other senior leadership of the University of Wisconsin, to redefine and revitalize how the University represents itself to the citizens of Wisconsin.

“The Board of Regents looks forward to working with Jim as he helps to tell the UW’s powerful stories, and strengthen relationships in preparation for a crucial 2015-17 state budget cycle,” said Regent President Michael Falbo.

“Jim has built strong and trusted relationships in both the legislature and the executive branch.  I am confident in his ability to reach across the aisle and advance the interests of the UW System,” said Regent Chuck Pruitt of Milwaukee, who has known Villa for many years.

Villa expressed eagerness to help redefine and revitalize how the University represents itself to the citizens of Wisconsin.

“The University of Wisconsin has a great story, and I look forward to helping communicate that story effectively in a way that people will notice and listen to,” Villa said.

UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells, who co-chaired the 13-member search-and-screen committee, said Villa’s diverse experience made him rise to the top of the finalists’ pool. “We were very impressed with Jim’s vision and his track record of success. I’m pleased that the UW System will have a new leader who can strengthen the University’s connections to the broader community and widen support for higher education in the state,” Wells said.

Villa, 42, grew up in Markesan and currently lives in West Allis. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Marquette University.

Reporting directly to President Cross, Villa will earn $178,000 as vice president. He is expected to start in his new position on May 5.

Media Contact

Heather LaRoi UW System 608-265-3195