American Family gives $1 million to UWM’s Lubar Entrepreneurship Center

Will establish the American Family Insurance Dream Studio

The Lubar Entrepreneurship Center at the northwest corner of East Kenwood Boulevard and North Maryland Avenue.

Last updated on June 27th, 2019 at 02:09 pm

Madison-based American Family Insurance has given $1 million to support the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s new Lubar Entrepreneurship Center.

The gift will support a collaboration space, called the American Family Insurance Dream Studio, within the 24,000-square-foot building, which opened this week.

The room will be used as an instructional space for programs that promote entrepreneurial innovation and technology, UWM said.

“There is a private-sector passion for revitalization in Milwaukee, and we want to be part of that effort,” said Peter Gunder, American Family Insurance chief business development officer. “Through partnerships that encourage entrepreneurship, we can empower our communities to be better, more inclusive and resilient places.”

The donation was announced Wednesday during the grand opening of the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and UWM Welcome Center, located at the northwest corner of Kenwood Boulevard and Maryland Avenue.

The Lubar Entrepreneurship Center features labs, instructional spaces, collaboration areas, conference rooms, a coffee shop and welcome center.

“Our friends at American Family Insurance understand the great need our city and state have for innovation, and this gift will further our efforts to make innovation and entrepreneurship key facets of a UWM education,” said Mark Mone, chancellor of UWM. “This is the entrepreneurial thinking that will propel us forward and provide opportunities for the next generation of UWM graduates.”

The new building includes classrooms for cross-disciplinary courses and workshops, gathering spots and labs for prototyping products and software.

The building was initiated by a $10 million donation from Lubar & Co. founder Sheldon Lubar and his wife Marianne in 2015. Additional support has come from the Kelben Foundation, established by Mary and Ted Kellner; entrepreneur Jerry Jendusa; alumnus Avi Shaked and Dr. Babs Waldman; and We Energies. The UW System has also contributed $10 million.

About 6,500 students have participated in at least one Lubar Entrepreneurship Center program since the center launched five years ago, according to UWM. The center offers 24 courses that combine entrepreneurial training with instruction in a range of subject areas, along with workshops and ideas challenge competitions.

“We have been building programs and partnerships for years throughout campus and in the community,” said Brian Thompson, director of the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and president of the UWM Research Foundation. “The new building will provide a focal point for entrepreneurship at UWM and enhance what we’ve been doing.”

“We’re teaching students how to develop their creative ideas and entrepreneurial skills – whether they are studying engineering, art or nursing,” he added. “They’re learning how to identify opportunities, how to talk to potential customers and how to adapt their ideas to best meet customer needs. This generous support from American Family will bolster our efforts to make entrepreneurship a key area of focus at UWM.”

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.