The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has made a name for itself as Wisconsin’s premier urban research institute. Now, with the help of an $11.7 million grant, UWM is tackling the state’s most pressing problem: unemployment.
The UW System Incentive Grant challenged public universities across the state to compete for allotments totaling $22.5 million by designing and pitching ideas for programs to boost the regional economy. Under a tight three-week deadline, administrators and faculty across various departments labored long into the night to generate seven final grant proposals. Out of the seven, four were approved for implementation and UWM was awarded a landslide sum – more than half of the total allocations.
Chancellor Michael Lovell attributes UWM’s success to its culture of creative collaboration and Midwestern work ethic.
“This was truly UWM working at its best in the way the campus came together,” Lovell said.
Lovell believes that these four new developments will significantly expand job prospects for future UWM graduates, as well as help to reverse the statewide trend of plummeting college enrollment.
“A lot of this is focused on getting students the skills they need to be successful when they graduate,” he said. “All have components where students will be working side-by-side with industry.”
Undergraduates will also have more opportunities to participate in field research and network with local employers.
In addition, the university has been thinking ahead about the unemployment crisis, and aims to address the problem before it begins. UWM has teamed up with Milwaukee Public Schools to ensure that incoming freshman have the basic mathematical literacy to remain (and succeed) in college. The university’s own math prerequisites are being scrutinized and revised in order to provide the same assurance. Stronger STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs promise the influx of a more skilled, research-oriented labor force in Wisconsin.
But the sciences aren’t the only stars of UWM’s financial boon – the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare was recently gifted $627,000 toward the development of the urban agriculture institute. The institute, headed by UWM, is a consortium of Milwaukee universities and community partners with a shared dream of sustainable urban agriculture and food systems. Dean Stan Stojkovich describes the goal of the institute as “part development and building of ‘green’ jobs and part promotion of growing power in the area of soil science.”
One of the tasks the institute aims to tackle is the perfection of a vertical farm. Eventually, transitioning away from growing crops on a horizontal plane could produce vastly more food (and living space) for the exploding human population, but the idea is still fraught with engineering and financial shortcomings.
“Chancellor Lovell is second-to-none in his ambition,” Stojkovich said. “Overall, it’s a really exciting time to be a part of UW-Milwaukee.”
The four UWM projects to be funded through the UW System Incentive Grant Program are: Research and Training Center for Commercialization of Intensive Aquaculture and Aquaponics, Southeastern Wisconsin Applied Chemistry Center of Excellence, Water Technology Accelerator (WaTa) Supporting Wisconsin’s Water Industry, and Addressing the Nursing Shortage: Statewide Initiative to Increase Nursing Program Faculty, Expand Student Enrollment, and Enhance Workforce Development.