Williams ‘made it’

Move-in day at the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus fills Lynne Williams, director of marketing and communications, with a sense of renewal. "Students are back, they're excited and it's contagious," she said after spending the morning welc...

Lynne Williams, director of marketing and communications at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, is making her mark on the campus and community as one of the city’s young leaders and the Duluth News Tribune “20 under 40” honorees. (Jed Carlson/

Move-in day at the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus fills Lynne Williams, director of marketing and communications, with a sense of renewal.

“Students are back, they’re excited and it’s contagious,” she said after spending the morning welcoming students to the school. “I walked into the union today and all the new freshmen were in there and you cannot help but smile.”

At 33, the goal-oriented Williams has hit many benchmarks. Most recently, she was named to the Duluth News Tribune’s “20 under 40” list of young leaders. Landing the UWS position at age 29, however, has been one of the highlights. The dream job blended her University of Minnesota Duluth marketing degree and passion for higher education.

“I remember getting this job and thinking, wow, I’ve made it,” said Williams, who lives in Duluth.

Since she stepped into the role, Williams has tackled it with enthusiasm, creativity and zeal. Her quick smile defines her.


 “Lynne is one of the most outgoing, vivacious people I know,” said UWS Chancellor Renee Wachter. “She has a sense of fun that comes through that helps to keep us grounded.”

UWS academic service learning coordinator Jenice Meyer, a former “20 under 40” alum, called Williams “one of the hardest working moms and young professionals that I know.” She’s got a proactive nature, always seeking to improve university outreach efforts.

“If you were to look up ‘possibility thinking’ in the dictionary, I am sure that you would find her picture, smiling,” Wachter said. “Her ideas, it’s why we have Yellowjackets painted all over the streets of Superior.  I don’t think her brain quits; I love it.”

Despite her leadership role, Williams enjoys rolling up her sleeves to crank out a story.

“What sets Lynne apart is that, while she’s a born leader, she’s also a doer,” said co-worker Tom Hansen. And she’s willing to face challenges, like communication efforts surrounding the 2012 flood, head-on.

Williams pours much of her energy into UWS. She serves as spokeswoman, oversees campus-wide brand marketing and communication efforts, leads the $1.3 million campaign for website redesign and serves as legislative liaison with the UW System. She earned the UWS 2013 Academic Staff Excellence Award and has been nominated for the Board of Regents award.

In addition, Williams has been involved with volunteer efforts from Superior Days and Animal Allies Humane Society to Positively Superior Magazine and the Young Leaders Fund.

“She is an individual who is not only dedicated to her job, she’s dedicated to the community she lives in,” said Dave Minor, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Superior/Douglas County. “She’s always asking ‘How can I make something better?’”


Williams was among the core group that launched Superior Young Professionals in 2013. The independent organization seeks to retain young talent by providing professional development and social networking opportunities for young professionals who live or work in Superior.

“Lynn brings an amazing sense of organization, drive and more passion than most people show,” said group Treasurer Erik Abrahamson.

In the past year, the group has held eight events and engaged more than 150 young professionals. Strong community support has surfaced for the organization, as well.

“I would like to say it’s been wildly successful,” Williams said.

Although dedicated, Williams limits the number of volunteer boards she’s in, focusing on those she’s passionate about. She hopes her 3-year-old son, Rollie, will learn from her example.

“I want my son to understand the importance of community service,” Williams said. “There are so many ways to give back.”

What does the 33-year-old do to unwind?

“I run half marathons,” Williams said. “I love to golf.” She spends time with her family and sings with the DSSO choir when her schedule allows it. Last year, she formed her first Fantasy Football team. Thanks in part to her quarterback Eli Manning, Williams fared pretty well.


Williams’ work ethic was forged on her family’s dairy farm in Lecenter, Minn. Chores started at 4 a.m. each day. In school, she took the opportunity to get involved in activities ranging from tennis and speech to band and student government. She took piano lessons for years and also plays saxophone and guitar. She and her husband, Ryan, added a piano to their home this summer, and it’s been getting plenty of use.

“I play piano a couple of times a week,” Williams said. “My son plinks at the piano and sings ‘Frozen’ songs.”

Despite her desire for a new challenge, Williams is just getting started at UWS.

“I’m not done here,” she said. Right now, she is focusing on keeping communications open and transparent as the university seeks to shave $4.5 million off the budget in the next five years.

“I still firmly believe that this institution is going to prosper,” Williams said. “And it’s going to be tough to get there; we’ve got some difficult things ahead of us, there’s no way around that at this point.” But she sees an end result that sets Superior up as a case study for others going through budget cutbacks.

“My career goal right now is to get the university through this and for me to look back when we are thriving and we’re no longer in these difficult, challenging times and I can say, “Yeah, I was there and I helped them,’” Williams said.


Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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