UWM Profile

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: Growing with the Community

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee enjoys a growing national reputation for excellence in research, quality student education and sustained community engagement. In Southeastern Wisconsin, the university is increasingly seen as an engine for economic development that is creating unique partnerships to the benefit of faculty, staff, and students, along with business and industry.


One of two doctoral-granting institutions in the University of Wisconsin System, UWM was founded in 1956 based on the belief that Milwaukee would need a great public university to become a great and thriving city. Quality education, excellence in research, and community service are all central to the University’s mission.

UWM’s $700 million 2012-13 operating budget includes $257 million in federal aid, grants, and contracts. Research comprises $59 million of the total budget. The university’s workforce of almost 8,000 includes 838 faculty, 867 instructional academic staff, 950 administrative staff, 1,153 graduate assistants, 4,887 student workers and 1,518 classified personnel (both represented and non-represented).

The university impacts Southeastern Wisconsin significantly: the operation of UWM has an annual impact of $1.6 billion on the Wisconsin economy. Economic activity from this operation pays back the state’s annual investment 13 times (based on 2007-08 expenditures). Dollars spent by UWM, as well as its employees, students and visitors total more than $750 million annually and result in almost 31,000 jobs (not including the university’s workforce).

UWM is clearly focused on 21st century goals and objectives. In response to emerging opportunities and targeted priorities, the Board of Regents has included $10 million in the UW systemwide biennial budget request for 2011-13 to fund “Powering Southeastern Wisconsin’s Knowledge-Based Economy: Phase 2 of the UW-Milwaukee’s Research Initiative.” In 2007, UWM earned stature as one of the nation’s Top 25 “Saviors of Our Cities” universities (New England Board of Higher Education, 2007), a ranking that recognizes academic institutions actively engaged in promoting the economy, culture and overall quality of life in their home cities.

In 2008 and 2009, exceptional growth occurred when two new academic schools were established. The UWM School of Freshwater Sciences is now the first graduate school in the United States dedicated solely to the study of freshwater. The UWM Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health plans to become the first accredited public health school in Wisconsin.

UWM alumni are increasingly distributed around the world. Living university graduates now total more than 135,000. While nearly three-quarters of them can be found in Wisconsin, the rest reside in every other state plus more than 90 countries. They serve as corporate CEOs and teachers, government leaders and architects, and one is a three-time Oscar winner.

Academic Programs

UWM is home to outstanding departments, academic centers, institutes, and laboratory facilities with worldwide reputations for innovation and excellence. UWM’s 184 degree programs include 96 undergraduate degrees, 55 master’s degrees, 1 specialist and 32 doctoral programs, through 14 schools and colleges. The schools and colleges include: Architecture and Urban Planning, Continuing Education, Education, Engineering and Applied Science, Freshwater Sciences, Graduate School, Health Sciences, Helen Bader School of Social Welfare, Information Studies, Letters and Science, Nursing, Peck School of the Arts, Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, and the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business.

Highly regarded professional schools and colleges broaden and deepen the academic quality of UWM. In addition to the School of Freshwater Sciences, the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and the Peck School of the Arts are the only such singularly dedicated institutions in the UW System.

Academic programs are built around the theme of integrated teaching and scholarship. The same faculty members who provide the foundation for the master’s and doctoral programs regularly teach and work with undergraduates. This joint commitment creates a robust undergraduate research environment and opportunities for structured engagement through the Office of Undergraduate Research and the McNair Program among others. The School of Continuing Education reaches more than 15,000 people annually through diverse professional and certificate programs, including water technology and business sustainability.


In Fall 2012, UWM enrolled 29,145 students—24,199 undergraduates and 4,946 graduate students. UWM is the second largest graduate degree-granting institution in the state, with over 3,500 master’s students and over 1,200 doctoral students per year. Many of these students earn prestigious awards from institutions such as the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the McNair Program, and the Big Ten Consortium for Institutional Cooperation.

UWM is increasingly emphasizing the academic progress of students once they have enrolled. The centerpiece of this effort is Access to Success, a comprehensive blue print that addresses enrollment management, achievement, retention and diversity through a continuum starting with recruitment and culminating in graduation. First-year students are strongly encouraged to participate in Freshman Seminars, classes that are smaller in size and broader in scope which stress the process of learning at the college level.


Each year, UWM grows its diversity in many ways:

  • More than 24% of new freshmen are from underrepresented groups
  • Students of color comprise nearly 22% of the UWM student body
  • UWM educates more individuals age 35 and older than any other UW System institution, and enrolls more than one-third of all UWS students age 60 and older
  • 1,300 enrolled veterans and dependants make UWM Wisconsin’s largest veteran-serving university
  • UWM students come from all 50 states; D.C., U.S. Virgin Islands; Puerto Rico and overseas military bases
  • 1,272 international students, representing 78 countries
  • To ensure students are regarded on the basis of ability and not disability, the Student Accessibility Center opens additional doors through its Deaf/Hard of Hearing Program, Blind/Visually Impaired Program, Mobility/Physical Disabilities Services and more.

UWM builds appreciation and respect for the diversity of individuals through a variety of centers and support services. These include the LGBT Resource Center, Center for Volunteerism & Student Leadership, Women’s Resource Center, the Cultures and Communities Program, and Institute for Service Learning. Also central to the campus are the Multicultural Student Centers that enhance the learning and success of African American, American Indian, Latino/a, and Southeast Asian students.

Faculty, Research and Scholarship

At its core, UWM is a highly engaged community of faculty, staff, and students committed to learning, discovery, and creative expression. Multiple areas of excellence are present in many units within the arts and humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and professional schools across the campus. The University is a premier doctoral research university with 32 doctoral programs, and is intent on increasing the level of extramural support and the number of doctoral programs, enhancing the ratio of graduate-to-undergraduate students, and continuing to increase the quantity and quality of research and scholarship.

Extramural funding constitutes one of the best indicators of the research productivity and reputation of UWM’s faculty in areas where such funding is available. Extramural funding increased 8 percent from 2007 to 2009—from $49.5 million to $53.5 million—and the trend is expected to continue. Scholarly productivity also is measured by success in publications in refereed journals, books, chapters, and invited publications; grant proposal writing and awards; presentations at national and international meetings; and performances and creative activities.


The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is one of 26 campuses comprising the University of Wisconsin System, which is based in Madison. The 13 two-year colleges feed undergraduates to all of the four-year campuses in the system. A 17-member Board of Regents sets policy, while System President Kevin P. Reilly guides its operations. Each individual university in the System has a Board of Visitors. The UWM Board is composed of 20 individuals who focus on legislative and community relations.

The most prominent feature of the culture of the University of Wisconsin System, including UWM, is shared governance, a unique system in U.S. higher education that is formalized in state law. Chapter 36 of the Wisconsin Statutes specifies that the faculty, academic staff, and students have significant rights and responsibilities for the formulation of policies, activities, and personnel matters that affect each of these groups within the University community. Such a system of governance thrives in an administrative environment that cultivates and sustains collaborative, consultative, and inclusive relationships with the University’s faculty, academic staff, and students.


The UWM campus features 65 buildings totaling more than 5.6 million square feet (520,000 square meters). An aggressive $130 million building program over the last decade provided new facilities to support strong academic programs in business, architecture, performing arts and the sciences, as well as student housing and athletics.

Among acclaimed campus landmarks, the Schools of Architecture and Urban Planning and Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business are housed in state-of-the-art buildings. The Helen Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts, with its 750-seat Helen Bader Concert Hall, two dance studios, and conference and classrooms, provides the Peck School of the Arts, UWM, and the Milwaukee community with one of the premier performance venues in the region. The UWM Libraries include the priceless American Geographical Society Library, the second largest collection of geographic materials in the United States. The University’s Golda Meir Library recently completed a $3.9 million project creating a new learning commons that integrates information technology, student instruction/support, and library services.

The main campus, sometimes referred to as the Kenwood campus, is compact, with all buildings within easy walking distance. The Alumni House and Hefter Conference Center are nearby.

Signature facilities near the main campus include Kenilworth Square, a multi-use complex just one mile south of campus in a vibrant retail area that has been redesigned in an innovative $68 million public/private venture including student housing, studios, and retail space. Located in downtown Milwaukee, the School of Continuing Education houses the non-credit program, outreach, and conference operations. Nearby, Milwaukee’s National Public Radio affiliate, which is operated by the College of Letters and Science, broadcasts from the Chase Bank Tower.

About 30 miles north of campus, the UWM Field Station is a College of Letters and Science research unit situated in a scientifically significant property of approximately 300 acres. It is adjacent to the 2,500 acre Cedarburg Bog, an experimental ecological reserve.

The UW-Milwaukee Initiative

UWM is engaged in a multi-year planning and implementation process to support the expansion of research and enrollment growth. The approved UW-Milwaukee Initiative will provide $240 million in total capital spending over six years to move campus building projects forward on the Kenwood Campus as well as others that lead to the expansion of the University in the areas of engineering and science, freshwater science, and public health.

To realize the next phase of growth, we are moving forward in an exciting $300 million expansion. Central to it will be the UW-Milwaukee Initiative, which will infuse state revenues, program revenues and gift funds into several major building projects both on the campus and on nearby and newly-formed satellite campuses. We are assisted in this effort by a recently completed master planning report produced collaboratively by the faculty and staff together with the local consulting firm of Hamel, Greene, and Abrahamson, and the Boston–based urban architecture firm of Sasaki and Associates.

The UW-Milwaukee Initiative has six major segments:

School of Freshwater Sciences Research Building Phase I. This project will account for the initial phase of an integrated marine, freshwater, and atmospheric research laboratory. It will reshape the landscape on the east end of Greenfield Avenue on Milwaukee’s South Side, incorporating the operations of the existing Great Lakes WATER Institute.

Kenwood Integrated Research Complex Phase I. Expected to be a five- or six-story building near the northwest corner of Kenwood Boulevard and Maryland Avenue on the East Side Campus, it will be used by UWM to advance STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, research, and outreach with spaces that promote interdisciplinary collaboration and provide core resources.

Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Purchase and Redevelopment. The university is moving forward with the repurposing of the adjacent 10.9-acre Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital campus. The site could be used for strategic placement and clustering of select academic units, consolidation of students services, increasing student housing and on-campus parking (a parking structure on the site has 788 vehicle spaces), and expanding available green space.

Replacement for the Neeskay Research Vessel. Since the 1970s, the Great Lakes WATER Institute has used a Korean War-era transport-tug boat as its primary research vessel, the Neeskay. UWM now seeks to replace the 71-foot Neeskay with a 120-foot research vessel capable of hosting larger scientific crews, conducting extended operations, and navigating research sites using dynamic positioning and state-of-the-art handling capabilities.

Innovation Park Land Purchase and Engineering Research Facility. Often referred to as the County Grounds or Wauwatosa development, Innovation Park would be the largest-ever single acquisition of future academic and research space for UWM in Milwaukee County. (The largest overall will remain the UWM Field Station in Saukville, which is about 2,000 acres of undeveloped habitat that is 30 miles north of campus.) UWM would control approximately 69.6 acres on the north side of Watertown Plank Road just east of Highway 45 on the Milwaukee County Grounds. Of that total, 11.5 acres is reserved for butterfly and wildlife habitat, and 58.1 acres are available for development. Following acquisition of the property, UWM will explore constructing engineering research facilities that could serve as incubators for collaborative research with key partners in this area. They include the Medical College of Wisconsin, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, GE Medical, Milwaukee County Research Park, and Blood Center of Wisconsin.

Public, Community and Clinical Health Phase I. Intended to satisfy much of the initial space needs for the UWM School of Public Health, this project could also serve as the location for components of other academic units, appropriate UWM centers and institutes, and community partners. Currently projected as the site for this development is 6 a building at the former Pabst Brewery site on Highland Avenue in downtown Milwaukee.


Playing a central role in the future of the UW-Milwaukee Initiative is the UWM Foundation. It supports the educational, literary and scientific endeavors of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee by receiving, managing and distributing gifts to benefit the University’s students, faculty, programs and community.

Within the UWM Foundation are two additional organizations, the UWM Real Estate Foundation and the UWM Research Foundation:

The Real Estate Foundation develops and manages real property for the benefit of the campus. It has in recent years built two residence hall developments, RiverView and Cambridge Commons, at no cost to the State of Wisconsin. University-managed housing is recognized as the most important factor contributing to a student continuing his or her education. During the first decade of this century, UWM added more than 2,000 university-managed beds—nearly doubling overall capacity to about 4,250.

The UWM Research Foundation supports research and innovation at UWM by providing funding for scholarships and grants and by engaging in corporate partnering activities to that end. It is an independent non-profit corporation that exists thanks to the support of business and community partners in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin. It oversees the UWM Catalyst Grants, Research Fellows, and Senior Faculty Awards programs.


The Office of Development raises operating and endowment funds from alumni, friends, corporations, and foundations for all campus initiatives. Donor activity, including cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of all gifts, is coordinated through the Office of Development. Having surpassed the goal for its first-ever $100 million comprehensive campaign, UWM is capitalizing on its success and continuing to raise funds to meet priorities, including student scholarships, faculty and departmental support, and research. Working with the central Office of Development and the development directors assigned to their schools or colleges, the Deans are the lead advancement officers for their respective areas of the university.


UWM has moved into a prominent position both regionally and nationally in NCAA Division I athletics. Student-athletes compete in 15 varsity sports on seven women’s and eight men’s teams. In recent years, UWM has earned 47 regular season and tournament league titles and regularly landed NCAA Tournament berths in baseball, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, and basketball. UWM is also a leader in the Horizon League’s Academic Honor Roll, with 92 student-athletes on the Honor Roll in Fall 2012.