Skip to Content
Home /  News & Events / Media Room / UC San Diego Extension Welcomes New Dean After Nationwide Search

UC San Diego Extension Welcomes New Dean After Nationwide Search


Dr. Hugo O. Villar, associate dean for professional and continuing education at UC San Diego Extension, has been selected as the next dean of UC San Diego Extension after a nationwide search, effective July 1, 2021. Dr. Villar will succeed Dean Mary Lindenstein Walshok, who will be stepping down in order to focus exclusively on UC San Diego‘s innovative initiative UC San Diego Park and Market, a major center of activity in downtown San Diego slated to open in 2022.

Previously, Dr. Villar worked in the biotech industry at the interface between chemistry and information technologies to speed up the development of new therapeutic agents. He joined UC San Diego Extension in 2008 as an academic advisor and has served in a leadership position for more than a decade. His broad perspective and collaborative approach to education has led him to positions of steadily increasing responsibility from his start as an academic director. As a member of the senior management team for the past four years, Dr. Villar has built a deep understanding of UC San Diego Extension’s mission as a nexus between UC San Diego and the broader community that delivers exceptional and accessible education and outreach programs.

“It is my honor and privilege to serve as dean for UC San Diego Extension, and to be able to lead the organization at a time where the landscape of higher education is rapidly changing with novel exciting modalities and technologies that lower barriers for more inclusive access to workforce training and education,” says Dr. Villar. “As part of a top global research university, UC San Diego Extension thinks local and acts global and is well established to put forth on the world stage the best that our San Diego community and our University have to offer. Our broad mission and entrepreneurial spirit will continue to innovate to increase access to higher education, develop a vibrant workforce with the most up to date skills, and providing avenues for personal and professional enrichment at any stage of life.”

Leadership Defined

In his current role, Dr. Villar oversees Professional and Continuing Education programs, the Center for Research and Evaluation, online learning operations, custom and corporate education programs, and self-supporting master’s degree programs, with a budget of $25 million and a staff of 80 employees, including academic personnel. He has developed, implemented and evaluated new educational offerings focused on a wide array of audiences, with particular attention to accessibility and equity. Select programs addressed the career development needs of employees from local industries, and others focused on international, post-graduate and graduate students.

Dr. Villar’s established collaborations with the academic divisions of the university have proven invaluable in maintaining educational continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to remote instruction. He has been an important partner in a recent Academic Affairs workgroup establishing a series of concrete recommendations for further strengthening the ties between UC San Diego Extension and the rest of UC San Diego. Additionally, he has been engaged in inter-institutional partnerships to develop joint programs with other major universities, including UC campuses, as well as national and international peers.

“Dr. Villar has been a highly valued partner in UC San Diego’s strategic initiatives to build innovative educational programs for matriculated and non-matriculated students,” says UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “His inclusive and thoughtful approach to leadership, deep institutional knowledge, and vision for the future of Extension will strengthen its mission to be the nexus between UC San Diego and the broader community.”

Dr. Villar holds a Ph.D. and Master of Science in Physical Chemistry from Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina, and a master’s in business administration with a concentration in Healthcare & Pharmaceutical Management from the University of Colorado. He has a wide range of leadership experience in industry, research and continuing education, having joined UC San Diego Extension after a successful career as a researcher and executive in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Dr. Villar resides in the Columbia district in downtown San Diego with his wife. They both grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They enjoy modern theatre and the visual arts. Their daughter lives in San Diego and currently works for the Natural History Museum, while their son is pursuing a master’s degree in urban informatics.

Looking Ahead

As UCSD Extension’s next Dean, Dr. Villar will provide leadership for the strategic direction and operations of UC San Diego Extension in developing and delivering continuing, professional and pre-college education in traditional and non-traditional classroom settings, including varied locations and modalities with the aim of increasing UC San Diego’s reach and community impact. This will involve oversight of academic and strategic planning, educational needs assessment and innovation, academic program quality and delivery to diverse audiences of non-matriculated and matriculated UC San Diego students. A major emphasis of his work will be the enhancement of campus and community partnerships encompassing the full spectrum of logistical and intellectual collaboration. He also will assume leadership of 200 full-time academic and staff personnel with an emphasis on access, equity, diversity and inclusion; assume responsibility for organizational and financial management; and oversee contract and grant management. Finally, Dr. Villar will lead a range of national and international university engagement activities, including many involving UCTV, a public-serving media outlet featuring programming from throughout the University of California, to continue and increase the impact and quality of UC San Diego Extension.
Dr. Walshok will continue her service as Associate Vice Chancellor (AVC) for Public Programs in order to ensure a successful launch phase of the new downtown center at Park and Market anticipated to open to the public in early 2022. In her AVC role, Dr. Walshok is responsible for the 66,000 square foot center of civic, cultural and educational activity at UC San Diego Park and Market, including the programming which will serve as a platform for collaborative projects between UC San Diego and the San Diego community across multiple disciplines, including the performing and visual arts, social sciences, health and medicine, science and engineering, executive and continuing education. Once launched, UC San Diego Park and Market will be an integral part of UC San Diego’s future.

“The City of San Diego and UC San Diego are deeply interconnected and it has been a privilege to be a part of building those connections over many decades as Extension’s Dean,” says Dr. Walshok, “And now as the champion for the exciting new campus initiative, UC San Diego Park and Market, that will continue to serve the diverse communities of the region.”


UC San Diego serves the lifelong learner by addressing the career skills and personal development needs of individuals, organizations, and our global community. UC San Diego Extension offers year-round continuing and professional education to 100,000 enrollments annually, which translates to more than 30,000 students in over 4,400 courses, panels and events delivered in-person, online, and 3D-virtual reality classrooms. Certificate and degree-related programs, community partnerships, public-service lectures, and special events meet rapidly evolving academic, specialist, and personal enrichment needs. As an integral part of UC San Diego, UC San Diego Extension programs are developed with advisory boards and taught by working professionals who adhere to the same rigor and standard of excellence upheld by the University. Connect with UC San Diego Extension at