An Unconventional (and Wow) Year

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

How many detours did you take this past school year? No doubt there were several and they were likely unconventional in many ways. We have all been part of an extraordinary journey that called for adaptability, kindness, equity, strength, passion, and the will to stand tall for ourselves and advocate for others. As we head into the last week of the academic year, I am filled with gratitude and admiration for all of your achievements, challenges and triumphs which contribute to a resilient UW-Milwaukee. We have so many points of pride that it is impossible to fit them into one end-of-year message. I’m delighted to have this problem and will highlight a few examples here.

Our Students and Alumni
UWM nursing student Cassidy Kolbeck gave the 10,000th COVID-19 vaccine dose last month at our community vaccination clinic. More than 200 nursing students administered vaccines this spring. Last week, we surpassed 14,000 vaccination doses to students, faculty, staff and community members.

Nearly 300 students and staff volunteers gave back for “Make a Difference Day” last month, helping local older adults get their homes and yards prepared for spring.

As part of Sculpture Milwaukee’s 2021 lineup, students from the School of Architecture and Urban Planning are helping New York City artist and architect Matthias Neumann construct a sculpture on Wisconsin Avenue this month. All installations center on a theme of social change. Thank you!

UWM almna Deborah Blanks turned a project she started for her son in grade school into a Black history app that launched Feb. 17. Dr. Blanks created the “Blackistory” app with help from UWM’s App Brewery. Bravo!

And congratulations to our future alumni and graduating class of 2021! You have endured more than any class in our history. Gov. Tony Evers sends his best wishes to our graduates.

Our Faculty and Staff
As the pandemic swept across the nation, Professor Sandra McLellan and her team of researchers began testing wastewater from treatment plants in Wisconsin’s largest cities.  This is cutting-edge research at its best and it’s helping Wisconsin communities track the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

A joint project by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and UWM Libraries is increasing the use of open-source educational materials which has reduced 19,000 students’ textbook costs by $2.3 million in the last 5 years.

Ava Udvadia, associate professor of biological sciences, was named by the UW System as one of three 2021 Regent Scholar recipients. This great honor recognizes both her research into the genetics that allow healing of nerve damage and her efforts to encourage undergraduate research.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
We have made strides in our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

In October we became part of the nation’s first-ever alliance to eliminate equity gaps by 2030. Together with Milwaukee Area Technical College, UW-Parkside and Carthage College, we committed to the Moon Shot for Equity initiative. Since then, we have created team structures, prioritized best practices, and enabled technology to use data more efficiently. Beginning this month, we will engage in a racial equity eConvening Series hosted by the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center.

Our Racial Justice and Equity Program is well underway with 2,100 employees having completed the training. The Division of Global Inclusion & Engagement has led the way and, in partnership with campus colleagues, hosted several open discussions with the most recent being the Confronting Anti-Asian Bias roundtable on May 6.

This week, we are interviewing candidates for the 2030 Action Team co-lead position as well as the special assistant to me and our chief diversity equity and inclusion officer. I expect to announce our new hires next week.

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation boosted our efforts to increase faculty diversity in our STEM programs by awarding us with a $1 million grant over 5 years. The focus will be on neurosciences. Potential candidates are being identified with a formal search to follow.

I acknowledge that we have more work to do and will continue to share our progress.

Support for UWM
Despite dealing with many challenges, UWM faculty, staff, alumni and friends have proven yet again that they will step forward and help those in need.

Last spring, in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19, we accelerated resources to help our students with basic human needs such as assistance to pay rent, purchase food and acquire other necessities. I am delighted to report that we recently crossed over the $1 million threshold through gifts to the Chancellor’s Student Success fund, the UWM Food Center and Pantry and emergency grants.

This year, our Development team launched the first-ever 414 for UWM: Day of Giving and raised an incredible $347,064 to support students and, in total, 46 schools, colleges and programs. Take a look at the album of 414 supporter photos here.

This was quite the year, and I am thankful to have shared it with you. As we turn the corner on the pandemic and look ahead to a more normal fall, we will again be in unchartered territory. I have every confidence that we will continue to grow and succeed together. Until then, you have my warmest wishes for good health, respite and peace this summer.

Best regards,

Mark A. Mone, PhD