College of LAS « Illinois

Barbara J. Wilson named executive vice president for U of I System

New second-in-command role will coordinate academic and budgetary operations across three campuses

Barbara J. Wilson will assume her new duties Sept. 26, serving in a designate capacity pending approval by trustees at their Nov. 10 meeting in Chicago.
Barbara J. Wilson will assume her new duties Sept. 26, serving in a designate capacity pending approval by trustees at their Nov. 10 meeting in Chicago.
Barbara Wilson, interim chancellor of U of I’s Urbana-Champaign campus and Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS, has been named executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs of the three-university U of I System, President Tim Killeen announced Monday.

Killeen said Wilson’s appointment, subject to Board of Trustees approval, fills a newly restructured role that establishes a clear second-in-command to the president, and adds responsibilities as senior operating officer to traditional duties as chief academic officer.

Wilson, 58, has served as dean of LAS since 2014, and in August 2015 she was appointed interim chancellor following the resignation of former Chancellor Phyllis Wise. In July, trustees approved a new permanent chancellor – Robert J. Jones, president of the State University of New York at Albany, who takes office Sept. 26.

Wilson retained her title as dean while serving as interim chancellor, but will leave the dean’s post when she takes her new position. Executive Associate Dean Brian Ross led LAS over the last year and will continue in that role during the transition.

In her new role, Wilson also will work closely with Killeen to advocate for the U of I System and elevate its national profile by building on connections with legislators, funding agencies, and leaders in higher education, communities, and industry.

“Barb’s leadership, passion, and vision have been invaluable in steering the university through a turbulent year with its excellence intact,” Killeen said. “I am delighted that she will now share her many talents to serve the entire U of I System, and elevate our standing as a global leader in education, innovation, and service to the public good.”

Wilson, a faculty member and administrator in Urbana-Champaign since 2000, will assume her new duties Sept. 26, serving in a designate capacity pending approval by trustees at their Nov. 10 meeting in Chicago.

“The challenges facing the entire U of I System and public higher education are going to require us to make decisions together that will impact the university for generations to come,” Wilson said. “I hope my perspective both as a long-time faculty member and as a campus administrator will help us make choices that foster academic excellence as well as sound stewardship of our resources. I know I have a lot to learn and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

In the newly created role of executive vice president, Wilson will serve as second-in-command to the president and senior operating officer for a $5.6 billion U of I higher education and health care system with universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, and Springfield. Major responsibilities will include the coordination of planning and budgeting across the System.

As vice president for academic affairs, Wilson will serve as the System’s senior academic officer, collaborating with campus chancellors, provosts, faculty, and academic staff on educational and student programs. In that role, she replaces former Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre, who resigned last month to become provost of the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

As interim chancellor, Wilson helped the university weather significant reductions in state funding during an ongoing state budget impasse. Despite the financial shortfall, enrollment continued to grow, including a record freshman class for the fall semester. She also helped lead efforts that brought in Josh Whitman as athletics director, Lovie Smith as head football coach, and King Li as the inaugural dean of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Her leadership also played a key role in developing a new Strategic Framework that will guide the U of I System’s growth for the next decade. 

Before becoming dean, Wilson had served since 2009 in the Office of the Provost. Her service there included two years as executive vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, with a leadership role in campus strategic and financial planning.

A professor of communication who was a member of the faculty at the University of California at Santa Barbara for 12 years, Wilson is an elected fellow of the International Communication Association. A three-degree alumna of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and her master’s degree and doctoral degree in communication.

An internal search to fill the new vice presidency was launched in July, assisted by an advisory committee chaired by University of Illinois at Chicago Chancellor Michael Amiridis. The search yielded eight applicants and Killeen interviewed two finalists for the position.


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