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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014

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Lovell's departure from UWM to Marquette leaves some serious shoes to fill.
Lovell's departure from UWM to Marquette leaves some serious shoes to fill.

Lovell leaves strong legacy at UWM

After a national search, Marquette University decided that the best candidate to be its next president was sitting in an office five miles across town.

Sources said it was Marquette that pursued Michael Lovell, rather than the other way around. After all, Lovell will leave behind a strong legacy of achievement at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lovell did not let the land-locked and lake-locked UWM campus stop him from expanding the school’s mission or its impact on the community.

Among his most significant accomplishments:

  • Development and construction of the UWM Innovation Campus, including the Innovation Accelerator and ABB Inc., in Wauwatosa.
  • Development of the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences and construction of the Global Water Center.
  • Creation of the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health at the former Pabst Brewery.
  • Creation of the UWM Mobile Innovation Lab, also known as the "App Brewery."
  • The launch of creative industry partnerships with businesses, including Johnson Controls Inc., G.E. Healthcare and Rockwell Automation Inc.

However, according to Vice Chancellor of University Relations and Communications Tom Luljak, the next UWM chancellor also will face some significant challenges. Among them:

1. Decreased state government funding. "As the proportion of money from the state goes down, tuition has gone up at all of our state universities, including UWM," Luljak said.

2. The need to fund UWM as a research university. "Currently, state GPR (general purpose revenue) is so low that our funding is comparable to the comprehensive universities in the system, not on the level Madison is funded," Luljak said.

3. The lack of pay raises for faculty and staff. "Some of the best faculty talent is being courted by universities outside of Wisconsin because their pay packages are so attractive," Luljak said. "Our faculty have had a 1 percent raise in the past five years while at the same time seeing their salary decrease because of the additional contributions to their pension."

4. Enrollment decreases. "The number of high school seniors is falling in much of the country as the baby boomer generation’s kids graduate," Luljak noted. "The demographic trend will continue for several more years until it levels off and then begins to rise again."

5. A general lack of flexibility in personnel and budget matters because of "state bureaucracy," Luljak said.

I would add one other significant challenge to the next chancellor’s "to do" list: fill Lovell’s shoes. Lovell managed to build upon the momentum that had been generated by his most recent predecessors, Carlos Santiago and Nancy Zimpher.

It remains to be seen whether any of UWM’s other key leaders will throw their hats into the ring for consideration as the next chancellor. An interim chancellor is expected to be named this afternoon. I would dare say that accomplished folks such as vice chancellor Joan Prince, Ph.D., and Associate Vice Chancellor Phyllis King, Ph.D., have demonstrated incredible vision and leadership at UWM in recent years.

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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