By Michael R. Lovell
Chancellor University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
The other day I was writing a note that we’ll be mailing to students newly admitted for the fall 2014 semester.
In it, I mentioned that Milwaukee County has nearly 60,000 companies.
That means there are more than two companies for every one of our students – an excellent source of future internships and employment.
Now, being realistic, I can tell you our university doesn’t have relationships with every one of those Milwaukee County companies.
But we do have great numbers of student interns and alumni employees at many organizations throughout the area.
More than once, I’ve spoken at a local company and been told there are hundreds of UWM graduates among their employee ranks.
Hearing that information is a great source of pride for our university, and at the same time the information reminds us of our great responsibility to educate future generations of people who will work throughout our community.
While we are doing a great deal to connect our students to the area’s economy, we know we must continue to improve. More than 5,000 individuals are earning degrees from UWM every year, and we know we can’t stop supporting these students when they receive their diplomas.
UWM has committed to being a part of the Global Water Center on Milwaukee’s South Side because we know we’ll create and sustain connections to companies that are part of the growing freshwater sector of our Wisconsin economy.
We strengthened our relationship with GE Healthcare by working with it to further support a first-of-its- kind talent pipeline for medical imaging software developers and researchers.
We’ve also continued to build our partnership with Johnson Controls to enable breakthrough discoveries in the area of energy-storage devices and batteries.
While partnerships with existing companies are important, we also know that many students don’t necessarily want to be part of someone else’s company when they graduate and would prefer to work for themselves.
That’s why we’ve focused on educating students on how to start their own companies with our Student Startup Challenge, uwmstartupchallenge.com.
The program begins with ideas and ends with companies.
In early September, the second group of winning applications was announced and eight teams were chosen to receive funding.
Over the course of this academic year, these students will further build their teams, take advantage of a network of business mentors who have volunteered to support the students, develop working prototypes of their products or software and launch companies.
It’s an exciting time at UWM because of all we’re doing to expand the traditional boundaries of higher education. Increasingly, this means strengthening relationships with existing companies and supporting the creation of new companies.
This is all part of what it means to be Milwaukee’s largest university in the 21st century.