Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:
The events of last weekend in Milwaukee are disturbing and impact us all. As we watch the media coverage, talk to someone who was there, or discuss it with colleagues, friends and family, we feel a spectrum of emotions – pain, anger, frustration, disbelief, and hurt, among others.
The weekend incidents involve complicated issues that deserve attention and action. The causes surrounding the unrest did not develop overnight, and as such, there won’t be easy or immediate solutions. I write today to reinforce UW-Milwaukee’s commitment to this city—not to promote our activities but to remind us of the impact of our actions, support the value of public education, and stress that we will double down on our actions to enhance the social fabric and strengthen this community.
I was at a social event Monday night in which the co-host told the audience of the impact of her UWM education. She grew up without the financial resources to live away from home, in an era when student loans weren’t an option. Living on the south side of Milwaukee, she took a bus to campus every day and earned her degree in education. She was a teacher in the community for 25 years and stated that if it weren’t for UWM, she would not have been able to attend college. I hear this story many times a week and think about the thousands of lives we impact and, like waves rippling in a pond, how many more thousands of lives we impact in this community, region, and state—every single day. Unfortunately, what the events of last weekend demonstrated is that, in several Milwaukee neighborhoods, we and others aren’t doing enough to provide these educational and employment opportunities to all.
Yes, UWM has an established history of serving students and community needs. We educate the most diverse population of any campus in the state—more students of color, veterans, first-generation, LGBT+, and non-traditional students than any other Wisconsin campus. Nursing faculty, staff and students have provided care in 180 locations, including two community centers, for over 30 years. UWM leads a Community Paramedic program partnership with the Milwaukee Fire Department, Milwaukee County EMS, Medical College of Wisconsin, and others. UWM provides student teachers at 170+ locations and charters 12 public charter schools educating 5,000 students. We annually host 300+ live theatre, music, dance, and other performance events.Countless UWM units partner with K-12 schools to improve and expand learning for Milwaukee’s youth across many disciplines. UWM students volunteer 43,000 hours each year at 125+ organizations. Our faculty and staff conduct research and partner with countless businesses, non-profit organizations, health care entities, and other organizations. These are only a few examples of how UWM faculty, staff and students are embedded in the Milwaukee community.
Yet, these contributions—and many others—are simply not enough. We need to do more, both on campus and in partnership with others. Recent events call for everyone in Milwaukee to come together and collectively and collaboratively solve problems. At times, such challenges can become tipping points that foment positive actions.
As we consider our role in next steps, I think of UWM’s Guiding Values, which outline what we stand for, as an institution. They include:
• Opportunities for open inquiry to support the positive transformation of individuals (students, faculty, staff), institutions, and communities.
• A caring, compassionate and collegial community characterized by mutual respect and safety.
• Diversity in all of its definitions, including who we are, how we think, and what we do.
• Stewardship of resources that promote sustainability, prosperity and equity for all in the local and global communities
• Pride in our institution, our unique qualities and our vital role.
As we look to the upcoming 2016-17 academic year, we will continue our longstanding record of dedication to our students, research and community, with our Guiding Values at the forefront of our actions on campus and in the community at large. Here are some initiatives in the works, building on our role as a convener of discussions and a collaborator for lifting up our great city.
• We are a co-founding partner, along with Milwaukee Area Technical College and Milwaukee Public Schools, of the M³ Initiative, known collectively as “M cubed”, the exponential collaboration and leveraging of our three institutions to produce greater student success and career preparedness. With education being a great equalizer, the M³ Initiative is critical to Milwaukee’s future.
• UWM is the home of the Social Entrepreneurship, Justice Equity Compact (SEJEC), which recently awarded $200,000 in grants for UWM faculty and staff to partner with eight community organizations to respond to poverty in Milwaukee. Read summaries of the grants at the SEJEC web site.
• This week WUWM secured donor funding to launch its “Race and Ethnicity Initiative” in which a journalist will focus on critical challenges Milwaukee is facing. WUWM’s LAKE EFFECT program, airingThursday at 10 a.m.,will feature a discussion on the root causes of last weekend’s unrest. Milwaukee Public Television plans to record the program in our studio and broadcast it on MPTV Friday night at 7:30 p.m. with rebroadcasts August 20-21.
• In October, UWM is hosting Imagining America’s annual national conference to discuss higher education’s role in improving community.
The above actions are positive steps, but more is needed. UWM has a singularly important thread woven throughout its history: We have shifted, morphed and expanded because the region and the state needed something more at significant turning points over time. We have been and will remain a catalyst for change. Many of us are at UWM because of the opportunity to impact student success, research excellence and community engagement. I thank each of you for your contributions to UWM’s efforts and achievements, and look forward to our progress with partners in Milwaukee in 2016-17. In future correspondence, I will share more regarding our community engagement. Our work, and UWM, are needed more than ever.
Mark A. Mone
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee