The Relationship Manager

Headshot photo of Charles Hoslet
Charles Hoslet

Charles Hoslet ’89 has covered a lot of ground over the course of his career, from chief counsel to Gov. Tommy Thompson to vice chancellor for university relations at University of Wisconsin–Madison. But Hoslet, who is retiring after 27 years at the university, sees a common thread running through it all.

“It’s all about what I call relationship management,” he said. “All of the roles that I’ve been in have been about building relationships with stakeholders, whether it’s policymakers in the legislature, local government or members of the business community.”

Thanks to his father’s involvement in business and politics in Green Bay, Hoslet recognized early on that a law degree could be useful in all kinds of careers. He landed a clerkship in the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel his first summer at University of Wisconsin Law School and graduated straight into the position of Deputy Legal Counsel.

“It was a really nice mix of policy, politics and the law,” said Hoslet, who worked on everything from contracts and gubernatorial pardons to criminal justice reform.

At Thompson’s suggestion, Hoslet also joined the Judge Advocate General’s Corps in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, signing on just two months before Iraq invaded Kuwait.

“The next thing I knew, I was working with Wisconsin National Guard soldiers who were being deployed to Saudi Arabia,” said Hoslet, who assumed responsibility for military affairs in the governor’s office.

Those experiences prepared Hoslet to step into the role of government liaison for the Department of Veterans Affairs, where he cultivated relationships with state legislators on both sides of the aisle. That, in turn, teed him up to become director of state government relations at UW–Madison. Immediately upon taking the job in 1997, Hoslet began leveraging his political connections to secure pay raises for UW faculty and staff.

By the early 2000s, Hoslet was ready for a break from politics. When Chancellor John D. Wiley asked him to establish an Office of Corporate Relations (now the Office of Business Engagement) to help businesses across the state take advantage of the university’s resources and expertise, he gladly accepted.

“I called it my sabbatical,” he said, laughing. “I had a great team, and we built something that made a difference.”

A high point was receiving a $5 million grant from the Kauffman Foundation to develop entrepreneurship programming across the UW system — including the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic at UW Law.

By 2013, the sabbatical was over, and Hoslet was back handling political affairs as associate vice chancellor and then vice chancellor of government and corporate relations. He launched the Office of Federal Relations in Washington, D.C., to strengthen the university’s relationships with lawmakers, federal agencies and UW alumni in the region; and created the South Madison Partnership Office (SMPO) to bring the benefits of UW–Madison to the predominantly low-income communities of color south of campus. (The SMPO now partners with 22 community organizations and offers programs in areas ranging from health and nutrition to education and legal services.)

After retiring at the end of this academic year, Hoslet plans to spend more time with his family and to pursue other interests — including, perhaps, teaching.

“I feel like I actually have some things to offer through my experience all these years,” he said.


By Alexander Gelfand