By Mark Mone
Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
We prepare. We partner. We produce. This has held true throughout UWM’s history and it certainly won’t change now, because this is exactly what Wisconsin needs.
The headwinds of 2020 are testing us all, and like you, UWM is braving them through nimble adjustments and resilience. Challenging times require collectively strong allies.
That’s why I want to personally share a few reminders with you about why UWM is more important and relevant than ever.
Preparing students for success is at the heart of UWM’s mission, but we do so much more. Our work is a fundamental component of an educated citizenry and a robust democracy. We’re an engine propelling the workforce toward today’s in-demand jobs, transforming our graduates into talented, coveted employees. We are also a community partner cultivating the change our region needs, especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion. And we’re researchers discovering solutions to societal woes, medical ailments, environmental challenges and industry inefficiencies.
Year after year, one of my highest honors as UWM’s chancellor is congratulating the 5,000 students who graduate with degree in hand. They are engineers and entrepreneurs, nurses and teachers, and specialists in nearly 200 professions. They join more than 190,000 fellow alumni, and 80% of them stay right here in Wisconsin, forming the backbone of our business community. More than 10,000 UWM alumni already work for top regional businesses, and our new graduates stand ready to reduce the 40,000-employee shortage our region faces in critical fields.
We’re a founding member of the Higher Education Regional Alliance, or HERA, which includes 18 colleges and universities that partner with a network of organizations. HERA is dedicated to closing student achievement gaps, increasing degree completion rates and expanding the area’s talent pool to meet its workforce needs.
I’m also proud to say UWM is the first four-year public institution to take the MMAC Region of Choice pledge, as well as the largest institution to do so. In concert with dozens of other leading employers, we’ve promised to help reduce the prosperity gap between the Milwaukee area’s white population and its Black and Latinx populations, which is, unacceptably, the widest among 20 peer regions. By taking the pledge, we commit to a 25% increase in leaders and managers of color at UWM, as well as a 15% increase in employees of color by the year 2025.
This pledge aligns with one of UWM’s guiding values: an embrace of diversity and inclusion. Our constant goal is to make UWM a radically welcoming institution for people of all backgrounds. And yet, the countless voices in the Black Lives Matter chorus have crystalized the need for systemic change regarding racial inequity, so we’ve placed a renewed emphasis on being part of that change by leveraging our strengths of teaching and research.
We’ve held wide-ranging and often-emotional campus dialogues with UWM students, faculty members and staff about the impact of racial injustice. We’re implementing mandatory anti-racist/anti-bias training beginning this school year for all faculty and staff, with plans to expand such training to students. We’re examining new administrative approaches, including adjustments to our recruitment and selection processes, to enhance our hiring protocols.
We’ve also launched our Toward an Anti-Racist Campus initiative, which will award grants to faculty and staff for researching campus racial inequities and devising solutions.
These grants emphasize expediency and mandate that resulting programs be implemented by our Fall 2021 semester. I have full faith that this work will make a difference, because world-class research is part of UWM’s lifeblood.
The prestigious Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education recognizes UWM as one of America’s top research universities, an honor bestowed on only 131 institutions nationwide. In fiscal year 2020, UWM earned more than $62.7 million in research awards, including $45.6 million from federal agencies. That means cutting-edge, life-changing work progresses daily right here in our community, exploring fields from energy to physics, health care to freshwater science.
We’re thrilled to partner with Marquette University in the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute, which transforms data into actionable insights to solve real-world problems. At UWM’s new Lubar Entrepreneurship Center facility, entrepreneurial training provides the tools to turn innovative ideas into marketable realities. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, UWM’s researchers are providing key discoveries regarding its spread, its impact and potential treatments.
In closing, I offer my deepest gratitude to our dedicated faculty and staff, students and alumni, as well as our community friends and supporters. You make all of this possible, and together, we all make Milwaukee stronger.