WFAA Leadership

​​At WFAA, our people use their talents to lead in their communities and in their careers. Meet the experienced executives who lead our organization.

Michael M. Knetter

Chief Executive Officer

Mike joined the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association as president and chief executive officer in 2010 after eight years as dean of the Wisconsin School of Business. Prior to joining UW–Madison in 2002, he was associate dean and professor of international economics in the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. He also served as senior staff economist for the Council of Economic Advisers for former presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Locally, he chaired the capital campaign for The Road Home Dane County, a nonprofit that helps find housing and work solutions for homeless families in Dane County. At WFAA, Mike has led a variety of initiatives to support the advancement of UW–Madison, including the launch of a new constituent relationship management system, the $4.2 billion All Ways Forward campaign, and the 2014 merger of the UW Foundation with the Wisconsin Alumni Association. Mike completed his undergraduate studies in economics and mathematics at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and his PhD in economics at Stanford University.

Alisa Robertson ’94, MBA’03

President and Chief Advancement Officer

Alisa joined the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association as chief of staff in 2011 and became president in 2022. Prior to joining WFAA, she was the associate dean for external relations at the Wisconsin School of Business, where she led the school’s marketing, alumni relations, and annual giving teams. At WFAA, Alisa oversaw the University of Wisconsin’s $4.2 billion All Ways Forward comprehensive campaign, which launched publicly in 2015 and ran through 2021. As president, she works closely with campus leaders on principal gift development, and she oversees WFAA’s development, alumni engagement, marketing, advancement services, and human resources teams. Alisa received a bachelor’s degree in English and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Abigail Cahak

Chief Legal Officer

Abi joined the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association’s legal affairs team in February 2019 and became chief legal officer in 2022. Prior to WFAA, she was with a large firm based in Chicago, where she practiced primarily in the areas of labor and employment counseling and litigation with clients across several industries. Currently, she oversees all of WFAA’s legal functions, providing counsel to the organization on legal issues that arise and helping WFAA proactively identify, manage, and resolve any matters that pose a legal risk. She received her BA from the University of York in the United Kingdom and her JD from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Law.

Brenda Phebus ’92

Chief Human Resources Officer

Brenda joined the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association as chief human resources officer in 2018. She has previously held multiple HR leadership positions in organizations spanning telecommunications, financial services, and small businesses. At WFAA, Brenda oversees all human resources functions, including strategy and daily operations. Brenda received a bachelor's degree in psychology from UW–Madison and an MBA from Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. She holds a Senior Professional Human Resources certification.

Carl Laurino

Interim Chief Operating and Financial Officer

An experienced CFO with both public and private-equity-owned companies, Carl came to WFAA in January 2022. He earned his undergraduate degree at UW–Eau Claire and began his career in banking. He has worked in finance, manufacturing, and industrial services, serving more than 12 years as senior vice president and chief financial officer for the Manitowoc Company, which makes cranes and construction equipment, and formerly was involved in the food-service and shipbuilding industries. At the UW, Carl served as a member of the advisory board for the Nicholas Center for Corporate Finance and Investment Banking at the Wisconsin School of Business.

Falicia Hines ’05

Chief of Staff

Falicia joined the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association in 2017. Prior to that, she oversaw donor and alumni communications at the Wisconsin School of Business. As chief of staff, Falicia helps to execute the CEO’s vision and organizational strategic priorities, as well as oversee risk management and strategic planning processes. She serves as an adviser and strategic partner to the leadership team. Falicia received a bachelor’s degree in communication arts at UW–Madison and a master’s degree in strategic public relations from George Washington University.

Frank Ace ’96

Senior Managing Director, Information Technology

Frank joined the UW Foundation in 2013 as director of IT. He received his bachelor’s degree in computer sciences from UW–Madison and has worked in the IT field for more than 30 years. From 1998 until 2013, he was the chief information officer for the Wisconsin Department of Justice. At WFAA, he is responsible for IT infrastructure, systems, information security and privacy, applications services, and business continuity planning.

Jim Kennedy

Chief Marketing and Communications Officer

Jim joined the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association in 2014. He leads the marketing and communications division, where he oversees brand management, digital experience and engagement, alumni communications and publications, and annual giving programs. The team engages alumni and friends via digital, print, social, video, and experiential media that include award-winning alumni publications and media projects. Jim has previously held marketing leadership roles in organizations spanning apparel, consumer packaged goods, and medical industries. He holds BBA and MBA degrees.

Marianne Siess MA’08

Vice President of Advancement Services

Marianne joined the staff of the UW Foundation in 2008 as a member of the prospect research team. She took on her current position in 2019, overseeing the research and prospect management team as well as constituent data processing, records management, data solutions, advancement business solutions, and gift processing. These areas focus on managing core data and help the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association teams leverage information to work more effectively with constituents. She helped to lead the effort to adopt the WFAA alumni and donor database. Marianne received a BA from Augustana College and a master’s degree in library and information studies from UW–Madison.

Michael Stohler

Chief Investment Officer

Michael became the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association’s chief investment officer in 2021. Prior to that, he was a managing director of investments at Washington University in St. Louis, where he invested capital across all asset classes. Previously, Michael was a managing director and international head of portfolio construction for J.P. Morgan’s Wealth Management unit. Michael also served as the chief risk officer for the division’s alternative investments platform. He has a BA from St. Olaf College, an MBA from New York University, and a PhD in physics from Purdue University.

Sarah Schutt

Chief Alumni Engagement Officer and Executive Director, Wisconsin Alumni Association

Sarah joined the Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) in August 2001, initially as the director of alumni lifelong learning. Between April 2009 and December 2010, she worked at the UW’s Division of Continuing Studies before returning to WAA. Though she received her bachelor’s (in Japanese language and history) from the University of Iowa and her master’s (in counseling and student development) from Mankato State, she’s been part of the UW campus since 1994, when she worked in UW Housing as a residence life coordinator, and then in the School of Education. She became executive director of WAA in 2017.