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Orrantia hired as new UW-Madison director of community relations

July 11, 2016 By Käri Knutson

Leslie Orrantia will become the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s new director of community relations starting Aug. 10. Orrantia has experience in community relations and business administration both on and off campus, though most importantly, she has a passion for bringing people together.

“I believe the university needs to be relevant to the community and the community needs to be relevant to the university,” Orrantia says.

Photo: Leslie Orrantia

Leslie Orrantia Photo: Marcus Miles

Orrantia has been on campus for four years, serving since 2014 as assistant director for the Wisconsin Collaborative Education Research Network within the School of Education. Prior to her work with UW–Madison, she served as a caseworker in Madison for nearly five years, collaborating with area nonprofits, government institutions, community organizations and local media to best address client needs. It was her work as a caseworker that really taught her the value of listening to others.

“People need to be listened to and validated,” Orrantia says. “Listening is critical to inform how we can engage, respond and generate a positive impact.”

Orrantia grew up in southern California and has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

Already active in the community, Orrantia is vice president of public relations for the Latino Professionals Association, a board member of Sustain Dane, a Big Sister to a young woman in Madison, and also sits on the Latino Consortium for Action (LCA). The LCA includes representation from the Madison mayor’s office and city council, executive leadership from area nonprofits, Latino Health and Education councils, and the Latino Chamber of Commerce. This year, Brava magazine named Orrantia to its list of “Women to Watch.”

As director of community relations, Orrantia will be a primary point of contact with local community and nonprofit organizations and will be responsible for developing strategies to ensure the university is engaged with these organizations and the broader community.

“People need to be listened to and validated,” Orrantia says. “Listening is critical to inform how we can engage, respond and generate a positive impact.”

“We are excited to have Leslie join us in this role,” says Charles Hoslet, vice chancellor for university relations. “Her knowledge of campus and her connections with the community will help the university continue to engage our community partners in meaningful and substantial ways in the best tradition of the Wisconsin Idea.”

As director, Orrantia will also be the primary campus point of contact with, and will act as a liaison between, UW–Madison and the Madison mayor’s office, Madison city council, the Dane County Executive’s office, Dane County Board of Supervisors, and other local government leaders and legislative bodies. The director will also have responsibility for maintaining strong relationships with local school districts and business organizations.

Orrantia hopes that in her role, she will not only help share the university’s story but encourage others to do the same. She will help ensure the university listens to and incorporates community voices in the work on campus and, in turn, that the university is an intentional partner contributing to the well-being of the many communities of Madison and Dane County.

“I feel strongly that this institution and the community share the same goals and deeply believe in the power of this university to help make change, all while leveraging the insight and resources that exist in our community,” Orrantia says.

Orrantia replaces Everett Mitchell, who was recently elected a Dane County circuit judge.