Milwaukee Talks: Marquette president Mike Lovell
On July 1, Michael R. Lovell took office as Marquette University's 24th president. He succeeds interim President Robert A. Wild, S.J., to become the first lay president in university history.
While Lovell's inauguration won't be held until Sept. 19, in the run-up to his first day as president, Lovell took the opportunity to talk to OnMilwaukee.com about his UWM days, plans for Marquette, Milwaukee and more.
OnMilwaukee.com Jeff Sherman, a Marquette graduate, sat down with Lovell on campus.
OnMilwaukee.com: The first question that I love to ask everyone is for your definition of success.
Michael Lovell: I think success is the breadth and depth of the impact you make on the lives of others. If you want to be successful, you'd be making a huge impact on the world.
OMC: Let's talk about your University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee days a little bit. Which two specific programs that you started at UWM would you like to see Marquette embrace?
ML: I think the one thing that I would like to have embraced here is the work around innovation and entrepreneurship. I think there's a great need for the city to have an influx of talent in terms of helping start new companies or helping really infuse existing companies with talent to help them go to the next level. Things we can do around educating students and having our faculty and staff be more entrepreneurial is something that I think will really help change the culture at UWM over the last four or five years.
There's a real energy here around it. I see a lot of small pockets of excellence, and have more of a campus-wide coordinated approach that actually integrates directly with things like Innovation Milwaukee and things going on in the city. I think there's a great opportunity for us to make a huge impact that will positively give opportunities to our faculty and students.
OMC: I've always thought that Milwaukee's really a college town. But it doesn't really get credit for being a college town. How can the colleges and universities and technical schools better collaborate and package and promote that?
ML: I think we're seeing things are starting to evolve in that direction, but we could do so much more. I've often said one of the unique things was about me moving across town was we can now partner in ways that we never ever thought before, because I know the institutions here so well. I think that the opportunities we have, whether it be around research, or whether it be around classes, or whether it can be about service to the community, that there's ways we can partner together institutions, we can make such a big impact on Milwaukee, which has so many needs and really so many problems and helping it move forward.
OMC: I love the "We are Marquette" cheer, but I think you would agree, that it's sometimes a little too inward focused. How can Marquette extends its arms and breadth and depth better into the community?
ML: One of the things I've heard, and I heard this over the last couple of years, and now that I've been named the president-elect, a lot of people have come to me and said, "We really need to have Marquette be more engaged in the community."
One of the things I'm going to focus on is turning the talents and the resources we have at Marquette to solving the problems we have right here in our backyard. I think that we can make a really big impact if we do that. I mean, think about what our core mission is, and that's the service of others to change the world. What better way to do that than to do it right here in Milwaukee.
OMC: In terms of campus priorities and development, obviously, Marquette has made leaps and bounds in the last 15 years. What do you see as your priority moving forward?
ML: Number one priority is I need to get my leadership team in place. If we take a look, we have a provost that needs to be name. We need a new business dean. We need a new athletic director. All three of those positions are extremely important to the future of campus. Initially, over the next six months, I'm going to get those positions filled with people that share the values of Marquette and myself.
In terms of capital projects, we just finished our strategic plan and so a lot of what we end up investing in terms of with changing the physical structure of the campus, will go a long way, too, as we start filling up that strategic plan, and start to move our initiatives forward. Then we'll develop with the campus community over the next year or so. The one thing that I'm really interested is helping really with the student experience and making it be as positive as possible, and part of that is facilities -- we will be upgrading dormitories, looking at upgrading the union, athletic facilities. Things that really make the student experience -- that's already good -- but making it great.
OMC: Do you have any lessons learned, again, from UWM, in terms of campus safety and working with the police department, and how you better project and even promote back to the students and parents in the community?
ML: Our first concern, as a campus, no matter where you are, is making sure it's a safe environment for the students so they feel safe and secure. I think that from what I understand over the last 15 or 20 years, Marquette has really gone a long way in terms of helping the safety of the students and faculty and staff on their campus.
Today, we have 700 cameras on this campus. It's amazing everything that's being monitored, being watched, and so it's very hard to be on the part of the campus where we're not recording. But that still doesn't stop people from coming to the campus and trying to target our faculty and students. I think the biggest thing you can do is actually educating, particularly the students, on making wise decisions so they're not easy targets that they're looking to do things that we don't want to them.
OMC: Back to the campus development, on my bucket list, is the Sherman School of Business.
ML: OK. I would just say that, particularly the Business School, but College of Health Sciences, there are some schools that we really I think we need to invest in. There are things that we haven't prioritized our list yet, but I can just tell you the Business School is definitely something that we want to make sure that we're looking at investing in, because, again, we want to have. We're trying to increase the national reputation of the university, the Business School is an important part of the that. We know that we need to invest in physical infrastructure, to create a state of the art facility for our business students and faculty.
OMC: In terms of rising tuition costs are of concern to everyone, and managing the costs and admin and overhead at a large institution, do you have some creative ideas in terms of how to attack those?
ML: Obviously, we want to keep the costs at a minimum to the students and their families. What that means is we have to find ways to diversify revenue streams. There's a lot of things we can do as a campus. First of all, fundraising goes a long way. The more money we can find for financial aid and scholarships for the students the less, obviously, they're going to have to pay, particularly for first generation students that may not always have the means to get there.
The other way is through partnerships and building efficiencies. There are unique ways we can partner with other institutions within the region or actually around the country, to really keep the costs down. One of the things that we did about two weeks ago, we had the six Midwest Jesuit institutions here on campus talking about ways we can partner to keep costs down. For me, it was very exciting. We are already going to be rolling out a nursing initiative, so we're going to be sharing, using online mechanisms, technologies so that we can share nursing courses among institutions.
The next thing we talked about doing was doing something around sustainability. Can we somehow teach it? It's actually one of the pillars of our strategic plan. So I think there's a lot of momentum growing, because I think all the Jesuit institutions recognize that they need to keep costs down. They need to work together in finding ways to do that as well.
Finally, research. If we increase our research portfolio as a campus, the overhead returns we get for that research, can be reinvested in other ways to reduce the costs of education to our students.
OMC: If you had a Milwaukee magic wand, what are the three specific things you'd change about greater Milwaukee?
ML: The first thing, I think we all recognized that all the major institutions and organizations in the city are not going to be successful as we want to be unless we can make an impact on the K-12 educational system. We can't have a system where you have 40 or 50 percent of the students graduating from the system, and the ones that are graduating need remedial work. Many of them remedial work if they even want to go to college. That's one of the things I really think that we need to focus on.
The second thing is if we want to have a robust economy, we want to have job growth and economic developments, we need to make sure that we're generating enough ideas. In that, universities play a very big role. So one of the things I think we need to do is have the universities playing a bigger role in terms of generating new technologies and new ideas. Also having the venture capital to launch those ideas and actually having the infrastructure of the business community to really making a difference there.
Finally, I think there's a lot of issues within the city and the county, that I think that when I talk to business leaders, I feel like a lot of times they feel like they're limited in their opportunities to grow. So we need to find ways to incentivize. I think of things like having companies moving into the region, make sure we have the infrastructure to do that. Those are three of the big things that I would say we need to really focus on
OMC: Do you own a pair of blue and gold Allen Edmonds yet?
ML: No. Not yet.
OMC: I said when I hit 50, I'm going to buy a pair. Put it on the list.
ML: Maybe somebody will get me a pair as a present for my inauguration.
OMC: Do you have a favorite Milwaukee area restaurant?
ML: I will tell you that Milwaukee has a lot of really, really good restaurants. That's one thing, you can come from Pittsburgh, which I thought had good restaurants. There's a lot of really good options. I will say that in terms of the atmosphere, I really like The Harbor House, especially at night when the sun's going down and you're looking over the lake. It's so unique to Milwaukee. I think that's the food's good there too, don't get me wrong, but I think in terms of the atmosphere, it's such a Milwaukee place for me. I like it a lot.
OMC: Pittsburgh is a very "Milwaukee" place, too. I look at the places I'd move to, Pittsburgh is high on the list, because it's so much like Milwaukee.
ML: It was so easy for me to move from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee because they were so similar. They're both ethic. They both (have) blue collar roots. They're both Midwest in attitude. They're similar sizes.
OMC: What was the last book you read?
ML: "He Leadeth Me," by Jesuit Father Walter J. Ciszek. One of the things I've had to do (is learn more), I'm leading a Jesuit university. I'm not a Jesuit, so I've been doing a lot of reading to try to understand Jesuit traditions and making sure that I'm leading this institution in (the right) way.
He went to Poland, then the Russians invaded and he got sent to a Russian prison. (The book is about) what he went through for 15 or 20 years in the Russian prisons and how he survived, and his Jesuit values.
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