Cynthia Villis

Cynthia Villis
Phone: (619) 260-4686
Office: Hughes Center 202B

Assistant Provost, Institute of College Initiatives & TRiO

  • MA/PhD, Counseling Psychology at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
  • BA, Psychology at University of Missouri-Columbia

Dr Cynthia Villis has served in the administration of the University of San Diego for over 30 years as a dean of academic services, an associate provost, an assistant provost, and an institute director. She connects USD to the greater San Diego community, making the university environment especially inviting to students and families. Her PhD and MA are in Counseling Psychology (APA-accredited) from Southern Illinois University, with an APA-accredited predoctoral internship at the Ohio State University Counseling and Consultation Service. Cynthia has been licensed as a psychologist in Texas and California. She completed the Management Development Program at Harvard University.
In 1998, Dr Villis founded the USD Institute of College Initiatives. The Institute supports programs which prepare students for success in college, and welcome them into higher education: TRiO Upward Bound, TRiO Student Support Services, TRiO McNair Scholars, Black Student Resource Center, Expanding Your Horizons, Global Leadership Connection, Afghan and American PreCollege Institute, and a liaison with Rotary District 5340 that includes the USD Rotaract Club. While an active administrator at heart, Dr Villis has served as an adjunct faculty member at six universities, including the California School of Professional Psychology, the University of New Mexico, and Texas Tech University.

Dr Villis develops -- and assists in the development of -- strong, dynamic programs which have been funded by the US Department of Education, the US Department of Agriculture, the US Department of State, The Rotary Foundation, the Rotary District 5340, the Rotary Club of La Jolla Golden Triangle, the Donner Foundation, the Copley Foundation, the Irvine Foundation, Sister Cities International, the Hewlett-Packard Foundation, IME-Becas, the San Diego Foundation, the California Math and Science Partnership, the University of San Diego, Texas Tech University, and the Ohio State University. When director of training at the Texas Tech University Counseling Center, Cynthia led its predoctoral internship to full and five-year accreditation by the American Psychological Association in 1983.

Cynthia is an advocate in education for students from first generation, low-income, underrepresented and/or disability backgrounds. She is a founding member of the TRiO Alliance of San Diego-Imperial County, and served on the oversight committee of the TRiO Alliance Research Program.

She has worked with former Rotary Foundation trustee Steve Brown on projects in Afghanistan since 2003. It has been a privilege and a challenge to develop, facilitate, evaluate, and offer improvements to strong and innovative programs with students in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.


  • Awardee, Women Who Mean Business, San Diego Business Journal
  • Awardee, Governor’s Award for Outstanding Leadership, Rotary District 5340
  • Community Leader of the Year, Dollars for Scholars, Linda Vista Chapter
  • Peacemaker of the Year, La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club
  • Citizen Diplomat, San Diego International Sister Cities Association
  • Nominee, Athena Pinnacle Award, UCSD and San Diego Daily Transcript
  • Administrator of the Year, San Diego Science Alliance
  • Rotarian of the Year, La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club
  • Woman of Distinction, University of San Diego