We’re dedicated to improving society. We provide students with education, skills, and real-world experiences.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is an ideal place for social welfare students and faculty to study, research, and work. Our school is located on the campus of a major research university, itself nestled in a charming neighborhood in the state’s largest city.

Since our humble beginning in 1965 to today, the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare has educated and prepared students for entry-level and advanced careers in human service professions. We’ve continually advanced knowledge regarding social welfare issues, and provided quality services to people in need. Our alumni work to make a difference in the lives of people who are often times dispirited and in despair. As a group, our graduates help to improve policies, solve the vital social issues of our time, and are a strong voice for thoughtful, social change in our society.

The top 10 reasons to choose HBSSW & UWM

  Our Campus Our bustling research campus lies in the heart of an attractive residential neighborhood that borders Lake Michigan and boasts a blend of charming homes, coffee shops, restaurants, and more.

  The City Milwaukee is a big city offering incredible opportunities, such as our world-renowned art museum, professional athletics, theaters, concerts, and festivals.

  Nationally Ranked Our social work program consistently ranks in the top 40 in the country. Our criminal justice program is one of the top three in the Midwest, and our crime analysis program is the most comprehensive in the nation.

  Flexible Programs We offer online, blended, weekend, and evening programs in criminal justice and social work.

  Scholarships We offer a variety of exclusive scholarships and paid work opportunities to students.

  Commitment to Diversity UWM is the most diverse of the 13 UW System campuses, and is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer.

  Field Instruction and Affiliations Our social work field and criminal justice field agency partners offer supervised, professional experience for students to begin applying what they’ve learned.

  Recognized Faculty Our faculty have earned international and national recognition for their accomplishments in applied gerontology, behavioral health addictions, child welfare, and school violence. We are one of two UW System doctoral-granting research universities.

  Tradition of Excellence UWM was founded 60 years ago on a belief that a great city needed a great university.

Helen Bader

Throughout her life, Helen Bader sought to help others. She played many roles — student, mother, businesswoman, and social worker — believing that everyone should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential.

Growing up in the railroad town of Aberdeen, South Dakota, Helen learned the value of hard work and self-reliance.

Living through the depths of the Great Depression and the sacrifices of World War II, she also learned the importance of reaching out to those in need.

Helen attended Downer College in Milwaukee, following in the footsteps of her mother and sister. After earning a degree in botany, she stayed in Milwaukee and soon met Alfred Bader, a chemist from Austria. Together, they married, started a family, and created a business, the Aldrich Chemical Company.

The growth of Aldrich relied upon his technical skills and her diplomatic finesse. Managing the customs regulations for overseas shipments, Helen made many overseas contacts, and she began to take German lessons. From the 1950s to the 70s, their hard work helped build one of Wisconsin’s most successful startup enterprises of the era.

The Baders’ eventual divorce led Helen to again become self-reliant. Helen dedicated herself to finishing her Master of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her field work at the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee led her to help many people in need, including single mothers and adults with mental illness. In the process, she gained a deeper appreciation for their everyday struggles.

After graduation, she worked at the Milwaukee Jewish Home, where working with older adults brought home the many issues of aging. At a time when Alzheimer’s disease was almost a complete mystery, she helped open the residents’ minds and hearts through dance and music. Helen felt the residents’ quality of life depended upon the small details, so she was happy to run errands or escort them to the symphony.

During that time, the arts touched Helen herself. She studied the violin and guitar at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and she enjoyed ballroom dancing. She spent quiet time at her second home outside Sheboygan, and she took comfort in her faith, having converted to Judaism while in her 20s. Friends and family remember that time in her life as one of deep personal and professional satisfaction.

Helen soon faced cancer. As the illness began to sap her physical strength, she shared a wish with her family: to continue to aid those in need. She died in 1989.

After her death, patterns of Helen’s quiet style of philanthropy became more apparent. When she had come across an organization that impressed her, she would just pull out her checkbook without a lot of fanfare. Helen felt an obligation to do her part.

In her name, the Helen Bader Foundation supports worthy organizations working in key areas affecting the quality of life in Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and Israel. The Foundation also seeks to inspire the generosity in others, as each of us can make a difference through gifts of time, talent, and resources.

Learn more about Bader Philanthropies  

Helen Bader (1927-1989)

Helen Bader
1927-1989